There isn’t much to discuss with the Machine God, though its voice is hard to ignore; it speaks in planks of wood shaped for the sea, sputters of smoke, eats grass. It speaks in
snow spit into piles, commands the motion of a needle through a hem. It hums. It waits.
Once, in a parking lot, it spoke to a boy waiting for an exchange between a sewing machine and his mother to come to an end. Mother’s needle- skilled fingers had already learned to ignore pain, but the boy’s hands were supple. The snow under Father’s idling car became a sea,
running into drains towards another sea the boy hoped and hopes is out there waiting. Almost heard it one morning, shoveling snow as a neighbor’s open garage rattled with machinery, boatbuilding tools, a thrum he knew to ignore. Damn fool, Father said, might as well build it with needles,
but the spell held the boy. To watch the needling of a board through a notch was to see a wooden sea- dragon and dream of riding it away. Boy, don’t ignore me. A lip splitopen. Shovel. Father hated waiting and had even less patience for the broken machine coughing exhaust in the yard, clutching a snow-
colored stone in its throat. Yes, he prayed the snow- blower would take Father’s hand. Yes, the needle of Mother’s scream, as the thumb was machined clean off, brought icicles down. The boy listened for the sea. Gripped his shovel. Gripped his oar. Now, in a waiting room, he bows to the florescent hum and begs. Ignore
my prayer, goes his stupid little prayer, pleaseignore my voice. The thumb in a jar packed with snow, will take a miracle for doctors to reattach. Waiting, as if to plead, Let me try my hand, give me the needle, Mother taps a knitting needle against the sea- foam-colored formica, rapid as a machine,
but the Machine God, still busy with the lights, ignores the needle’s morse code prayer, while the boy waits for snowmelt in his mouth to taste of oak and sea.
79 The Paris-American
Detroiter Jamaal May is the author of Hum (Alice James Books, 2013), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award. His poems appear widely with the most recent work found in Poetry, The Believer, Ploughshares, New England Review, and Kenyon Review. Jamaal has received fellowships and scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Cave Canem, Callaloo Workshop, and Bucknell University where he was named the 2011-2013 Stadler Fellow. He currently acts as series editor, graphic designer, and web manager for the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press. His Hum Digital Shorts video series can be found on Youtube.