The Machines Had Accepted Me For So Long
by Angel Leal
The factory could be heard all night
clanging its bone-like metal,
endlessly shaping new male faces
and new female limbs for the morning.
When I entered the factory, I had nothing.
I was no one,
so I thought myself
capable of becoming anything.
I don’t know how else to put it.
How else could I let go of myself,
whoever that was, and mimic the men
the factory made.
But I did. I altered my voice first
to lose its tone and intonations.
Over time all its highs were gone,
even the longing to suddenly sing
was nowhere near me.
Next, I altered my walk.
My walk nearly gave me away, but
I learned and watched their metal legs
stride from room to room and quietly
let go of the feminine skip that
still lingered within me.
Next was my face. This was not difficult
physically but it was emotionally.
It meant, more or less,
I needed to look forever useful, forever
knowing of my task as if I was made for it.
One grimace of doubt and the machines
would know how afraid I was.
But I didn’t show them.
I was a builder now. A lifter of heavy objects.
I didn’t move like me, didn’t sound like me,
did I think like me?
Yes, that was all I couldn’t change.
In my mind, I could still see that child
laughing when a cricket hopped in their hand.
Sweet cricket, you ruined me, in a way.
Because with you I remembered
rain and stars and skipping.
My grandmother’s hands.
The wet sound of myself crying.
One day, I couldn’t pretend anymore.
I needed to tell them who I was all along.
And so, I tried. I walked up to them,
one by one, telling them what I was.
Each continued their daily duties
mechanically asking me to carry something
important to another section of the factory.
I did as they asked and, having nowhere
else to go, found myself in such a life
that I could never reveal myself.
The machines had accepted me for so long
that now I may behave in a completely
human and fragile way.
I can bleed again,
I can weep,
and somehow the
machines can still
Angel Leal is a Latinx genderqueer poet from Texas. Obsessions of theirs include: the fierce writings of Kai Cheng Thom, mechanical futures, and the perseverance of fungus. Their previous work is out or forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, and Kaleidotrope.