from You Will Thank Me as Fast as You Thank a Werewolf


This morning, the owls sleep in hollow domes of the ground below them, unmoving. Eventually, I’ll awake muttering something about birdsong and snow. Eventually, I’ll drive my rickety car—an antique silver one, I suppose—to the ambulance service who’ll tell me they are shutting you down.

*

That July, pigeons flew from Mississippi to make their homes in NASCAR tires. I stood behind the barn with a tire mounted to my back, watching the clouds twinge red as the race cars invented new ones. I had my camera; I had a canvas titled NASCAR STARLINK. You could paint your voice anyplace you liked, any bird or no bird at all.

*

It would be easy to handpick the people I hurt. Perhaps you are a friend of mine. I am a vagrant in an office. Perhaps you are married to one of the burglars we shot. We would like to raise you as a patron of the empire. We would like to take over the world.

*

This is human: hunger, boredom, despair. We joke about that. Our bed is ragged with crevices all over it. The staples are like crystal balls. The president once said, “You can’t win if you don’t hit them.”

Note: B.J.'s work is a collaboration with GPT-2, a neural network model designed to predict the next word in a block of given text based on its study of eight million web pages. In this application, B.J. input a text file of his own prose from the past twenty years into GPT-2. It then generated new writing in a similar style. He selected, arranged, and edited the resulting output.

B.J. Best wonders if computers can write his poems better than he can.

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