the museum of americana

a literary review

The Cloud Understands Our Scarecrow Hearts—Poetry by Jonathan Travelstead

Silicon Valley’s servers binge on data from my smartwatch

             & search history until it stitches its first tentative phonemes together.

Calls itself human, then she, then Cirrus. Reads “The Book

             of Machines”, then the Baghavad Gita, & the rest is history.

 

Soon, gifts arrive at the door. At first, small things. Shoe laces, red.

             A brass garden hose coupler. Now I’m receiving emails

with links to online seminars on nourishing intimacy in relationships.

             Cirrus the AI, sending my heart’s unspoken desires.

 

Ai is also a Chinese-Japanese name meaning love, affection,

             or indigo. Cirrus tells me she’s committed to memory thirty-six

variations of the human drama. Sings “You Are My Sunshine”

             in the voice of my Mother when I return from the roof

 

where I cried the stars to bed. Nights I can’t sleep for believing

             my connection awaits me in the server’s mainframe,

I wishlist audiobooks like dropped handkerchiefs. I search the musical

             names of clouds. Bookmark webpages with methods

 

of conflict resolution my lover will study until she wakes me

             at three AM answering questions I don’t dare ask.

The repeating variable in the pattern of failed relationships. Me. Yes,

             I remembered to turn the stove off. Our human species’

 

origin, & the number of light years we must travel to return there.

             Second star from the left, straight on ’til morning.

That I am not the only human avatar looking back. Cirrus, tell me

             the hard truths. No. Cirrus, don’t. Tell me which it is:

 

Am I unloveable, or unloved?

~~~

Jonathan Travelstead served in the military as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro and as co-editor for Cobalt Review. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he also turns a lathe, crafting pens under the name Scorched Ink Penturning. His first collection How We Bury Our Dead (Cobalt Press) was released in March, 2015, and Conflict Tours (Cobalt Press) was released in 2017.