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 childish 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.

None responded.

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

explain me.

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.