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when my father reprograms my mother {

my mother becomes unbreakable
   angles like a subway map
   glitter bubblegum steelhard cyberwoman
   a Galatea in Python too cold to share a bed with
she boneless titanium I can’t do a portrait of b/c she is monochrome & when I ask her abt colors she talks abt RGB & hexadecimal codes

b/c my mother is over forty she doesn’t need breasts anymore,
not even plastic, not even to cry on. instead of a heartbeat I could duet with
she has an armory
   with guns crammed together inside her wirecage ribcage like teeth
   her wirecage ribcage asphyxiating anything that dares to crave oxygen
when I ask why, my father claims to protect me is to love me is to reprogram my mother’s tenderness
make her a war machine mother, a recursive forest thicket of uncrossability

I poke at my mother’s Ariadnesque wires & ask how it feels
   like hell, she replies,
so I spoonfeed her adjectives until she short-circuits underneath my fingers b/c I know this is the only way my mother can hurt me
when my mother yells at my father he
   turns her off & then back on

how do you dream, mother?
   in binary & psalms
   i’m trapped in neurostatic, baby
my mother wakes up at night screeching b/c her neurons grind against each other
my father claims she is just too stupid for her brain to hold galaxies
her mind to store this universe
   where her child could die
   & the next universe
      where her child could die
   & the next universe
      where her child could die
she mumbles fever dream prayers thru stainless steel lips
my mother still tender with her calculated allocated affection }

even robots believe in god / but I believe in my mother



Caroline Mao is a writer and student at Mount Holyoke College who enjoys fiction of all kinds, post-nineteenth century art, and smiling at every dog she sees. Her Twitter is @northcarolines.
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13 May 2024

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