THE BIRTH OF ALUMINUM HEAD
He arrived in a manger. His metal body crashed through the barn roof like a satellite fed up with the task of observation. So he was born, a solid-body machine—LED eyes backlit —resistant to rusting and denting.
From day one, he logged on, dialed in, and with insides comprised of blood and wires, attempted to connect. He encountered dirt. He touched his tongue to sap to memorize our history. He grew humanish, learned words for “nature,” “NASDAQ,” “neighbor.”
As he grew older he collected coins and displayed a penchant for navigating the system. He patched the hole in the barn with NYSE predictions and pages of Whitman. He saw the men and women and his farm expanded. His teaching in commerce sustained us. He could not contain his world—the orchids, the power tools, the green that swathed the land between oceans.
And his world could not contain him.
ALUMINUM HEAD VISITS WALDEN POND
When he’s dead again, his ashes and motherboard floating through the darkness of a tin can, we’ll ask Where He Lived and What He Lived For. Through the bean-field a breeze will whisper Farm Town.
It’s so serene beside this water that the brain screams “Does Not Compute”. His processors overheat when he considers the moral absolutes of his daily life, what he does in the world/what he won’t do, the way he’s been programmed to follow rules. Yet beneath it all is instinct, a current of energy so yellowy, insistent, expansive that he knows what he doesn’t know: beneath the tangle of wires he’s a wild winter animal.
Creature perfect. The whip-poor-wills and church bells and brute neighbors understand.
When he’s gone we’ll say, dear Aluminum Head left Farm Town much the way he came: all by his lonesome. And for a while weren’t things perfect there? The system we’d established, how there were always trees enough for everyone? To each a modest house, a fertile field?
How we relied on strangers here? How strangers became our lovers and friends the way strangers always do?
Aluminum Head never found a companion so companionable as solitude.
Ashley Farmer is the author of the chapbook Farm Town (Rust Belt Bindery, 2012), the collection Beside Myself (PANK/Tiny Hardcore Press, 2014), and The Women (forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016). She co-edits Juked. Please say hello at ashleymfarmer.com.