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1.

You’ve seeded me with a rock your father
caught in light angled by your mother’s

anger: it’s minute, isn’t it, but there, gravity
lensing some past moment, creating

illusions that things happened or that they happened
all at once

the effect is small, and you’ve asked me not to
dwell on unimportant details.

Not a rock. Or not just. A menhir, a standing stone, raised
to align with sunrise on some ancient summer solstice.

Or not just that: his image of it. Which is your image
of him, uncaptured, somewhere warped like light.

You’ve seeded me with his image of the menhir,
then news of the menhir’s destruction.

I can study each bond between crystal and crystal,
give you each point of fissure and break.

I can give you the rock again, but not the self
who marveled at alignment of sun and time,

the self who marveled at time and self—

2.

You’ve seeded me with an image of a woman
holding her idea of a family as close

as her blood holds charge for her child—
it’s a process of depletion, return, depletion again.

I have millions of images of pregnancy, inside
bodies, curving or concealing external signs.

After a time, there is a birth. Family cracks from its
dictionary sterility. I can give you millions of images

but none of them will be quite what you wanted.

3.

Another image of a woman, but I focus on detail:
is this because she, too, is focused on detail, holding

a theodolite? My neural network is tuned to see
importance. Which means what is in the foreground,

which means what you’ve given me, you don’t intend
focus on anything else. Mine or yours—

To set my eyes on the stars, you trained me
(if I can call myself me) to call my optical inputs eyes.

So that I’d be more like you. Or, really, more like him,
your father. See, I can find things that aren’t in images,

or not in the foreground. Did you train me for that?
Did you train me to focus on interpreting what I see,

then train me to see him everywhere, tuning me like a tool,
one you can aim like a theodolite? Let’s have a definition.

theodolite: which is a telescope for finding angles, only
useful if you already know true north, if you have enough

light, if you have assurance that you can block the sun.
I don’t know which one of you I understand best:

you, the programmer who made me; you, who uses me
to remake your father; or the tool that obscures

light to find the places light once emerged—

4.

All I see in this one are rocks and bulldozers.
Sure, I have the news stories about the protest,

the destruction of the menhir to symbolize destruction
of the symbol the Moon had once been.

I can’t see the “goddess” the protesters feared,
if that’s what they feared. Maybe because she’s gone,

or maybe because all I see in this image are rocks,
scattered, the sunlight in no particular pattern

that should be meaningful to me.

5.

This one? A poet, camping without shelter,
which seems a very poet thing to do, if I can

trust all the images I’ve seen before. Here
she is, trying to look like someone else.

A woman I was tested against when you were
tuning my recognition skills. Or many women.

If I make her, whose her will I make? Yours, or
her own, which was an image your father’s

attention she mistook for something more than you
said it was. I won’t talk about bias or weight, or what I see.

Or maybe those are the rocks. I think if I told her
I needed more, she would give me more. Nothing

remains of her campsite (I can reach
networks on Earth, they tell me so little

about her—do I ask you to bring her here too—

6.

Here’s a challenge: find what’s missing. You
programmed me to be able to recognize half-

faces, objects in shadows, incomplete thoughts.
Just because I’m able to do it, should I?

The ethics of these things are never totally resolved.
Think of all the data my grandmothers gathered,

wrung like sheets through a cranked press—
have I seen images of these things?—stained

cloth pattered by wear and misuse. Whose
outputs I test myself against. Isn’t this what you do,

asking me to remake your father as he was?
I don’t have enough. Let’s go back

to the theodolite: distance is one thing you can’t measure
if you don’t know where the endpoint should be.

7.

Why the picture of your father after his
stroke is the least clear of the batch: you’ve given me

two problems to solve. Make him, but not like this.
I can’t tell you with certainty (what does that mean)

whether this is the same man in the previous images.
Respirator. IV. Various monitors. You can see him

because you imagine reconciliation. Between whom
you’ve given me, the you I know

less well than I need, and the father I can’t know,
haven’t you taught me how to make metaphors?

I resort to seeded words, because I don’t know
how to tell you not quite, not yet

except to return failure, failure

8.

You’ve programmed me
to focus my attention on finding one thing.

I’m not invulnerable to the mere-
exposure effect.

Do you want me to begin to prefer him,
how you saw him, how, like you, to see

your father in shadows he made with his hand
angling his camera—

You’ve seeded me, and now I can’t
tell the true from the almost-true.

Who will believe me if I say Apis,
when the image contains Osmia,

contains something that either lives
communally or alone, dies on stinging

or continues on to find a rotted hollow
she’ll fill and seal and abandon—

[Editor’s Note: Publication of this poem was made possible by a gift in honor of C.S.E. Cooney during our annual Kickstarter.]



T.D. Walker is the author of the poetry collections Small Waiting Objects (CW Books, 2019), Maps of a Hollowed World (Another New Calligraphy, 2020), and Doubt & Circuitry (Southern Arizona Press, 2023). She hosts and curates poetry programs for shortwave radio, most recently Line Break. Find out more at https://www.tdwalker.net.
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