poem for my FBI agent
my agent is pretty cool; he arrives late
& would skive off early
if they let him.
no suit, but he wears big black sunglasses.
he gets ten minutes every morning
for coffee, & in the afternoon he uses
his break for tea
& to check the week’s weather.
my FBI agent feels the strain
— mostly it falls on his eyes
when i take selfies he’s curdling
towards a cluster headache.
my agent can’t afford to live anywhere big
— a shared apartment in a mid-sized city
but he does ok.
half-full milk carton in the fridge,
the kitchen tap leaks at the base.
in his open-plan office, desks stretch
out too far. too far back.
he’s lost count of his colleagues,
of the messages i send.
a pile of disposable coffee cups,
there, on the other side of the glass.
knocking for me.
my fbi agent is a mathematical problem
and not just a philosophical one. if i ask who watches
who watches me, it sounds
insincere; but let’s get down to it
in our underwear & most vulnerable body parts
who’s at the other end of the line?
who does he text when he’s lonely?
who gets to see
his underwear, and stricken texts
if i type a poem instead of writing it out first
it feels closer to god, by which i mean
closer to you, watching me
and if i am not a problem, are you there?
do you only appear when i call for you? my agent
only looking out
when i look back
matter changes when it’s hit
am i a problem for you yet?
the lake turned to ice improbably fast;
and the custard became a rock inside your mouth.
my fbi agent talks me through my facebook ad settings
mass media / narrative / sunday / victory / year / grammatical tense / romanticism / everything (band) / genre / spectacle / organism / emotion / women’s rights / walter benjamin / maria sharapova / phil spector / carly rae jepsen / hybrid (biology) / grammar / verb / nike (mythology) / petticoat / pocket / fandom / aesthetics / sound / gender / tennis / family / sabotage / books / instant messaging / institution //
i say: is this how you see me?
birthday in october / close friends of men with a birthday in 7-30 days / close friends of ex-pats / commuters / gmail users //
i want to know about data in poetry when it’s bad data & i want to know about how you see me in these systems when they’re bad, i don’t mean morally, i mean shitty, incomplete, i mean you know too much and it’s all worthless except. except for the ways in which it works for you. i struggle to get out of bed & some days all i keep down is tea with milk in. you say: interested in victory, pop music by murderers, and grammatical tense.
i don’t know whose birthday is in 7-30 days and you’re making me feel like a bad friend.
a lot of things are true / a lot of things inside me are not so
i want to know what data looks like from the inside. my agent, do they pay you enough for laser surgery. cleansing light. clearer now. scratching out the imperfections. how easily can you access the drive that i am writing this directly onto. i am scratching each word in a place where neither you nor i can lose it. in the short term. in the drive. in this tepid bath of many years, but not centuries. maybe software’s fragility will save us. maybe i want everything i write to be saved.
the earliest prehistoric art is ochre. i type ochre as achre, over and over, as if creating a new word and somewhere i wonder if it’s in this error that you see me. that in the strange keystrokes you register, you know me better than before i wrote this poem to you.
i am an archive of keystrokes / is that what you see
and i wonder what red means to data. i wonder about the loss, about the losses that you know. the feeling of files and data, your lost memory, the loss of something else. a lack. a broken backspace key. only being able to go forward. never. back back back.
Charlotte Geater lives in London and works for The Emma Press. She recently completed a PhD at the University of Kent. Her poetry has previously been published in Clinic, Strange Horizons and The Best British Poetry 2013. She is on twitter at @tambourine.