Rumpus Original Poetry: Four Poems by Joanna Fuhrman





Are You the Invisible Song That Was Playing?


To wear a blindfold in the algorithmic state one must trust that the crowd is closer to a mosh pit than an ocean. One morning your glass of orange juice is replaced by a beacon of sunlight and from then on, the square of sadness you carry in your pocket feels heavier.

When I was a data point, I posted to a forum a question about the effects of perimenopause and when the answers came back, I trembled in their presence. My love of the Internet was like my love of city.  In each, I wandered underground, smelling of pomegranates and hemorrhoid cream.

Yesterday, on the subway I overheard a woman with a voice like a cartoon parrot complaining of her Macy’s coworker’s purchase of a thong for clubbing. “The picture showed just what it is—a sack for your dick and balls.”



The Future Leaks into the Past


Some days I would push my chair to the window and get angry when no one could tell that I was also a window.

Other days I’d find the window in my heart. I’d open it so all the swallows could fly out, breaking everything not amenable to the possibility of loss.

I met a few species of creatures I would be capable of loving, but more often I failed.

One day, the computer opened its mouth and swallowed the past, so all that was left of the present was a silent movie hidden behind a velvet curtain.

Only the mice found holes in the narrative and could make a sort of home there.

The rest of us just complained about the end.



Tikkun Olan 


When I was a child, we said, “Next year in Jerusalem,” and we meant not the international city, heart of three religions, but the other, less tactile city, the center of the proto-Internet, city of starlight and Talmudic honeycombs. When my sister said “Israel,” she meant a sky-blue room where the letters of the Torah glowed like a string of bloody hearts. When I said it I meant a kibbutz where I might have multiple orgasms, write poetry and farm radishes. I longed for the basement rooms where my ancestors ate knishes while debating the meaning of Marx. When we imagined freeing the slaves, we meant not just the Jewish slaves. We fantasized about traveling simultaneously backward and forward in time, unknotting the lynch knots from pixelated, dehistoricized trees.



Barbie Attempts to Gain Control of the Algorithmic State


She was lucky that her fingers were small enough to fit into the microprocessor and pull out a rubber chicken. Raggedy Ann watched with envy. She’d been standing on the edge of the digital highway for 41 days and 42 nights and no one seemed to notice. Everyone was born knowing love is unfair, but the unfairness of rubber chickens surprised her. She felt angry at the future’s reflection in her button eyes and tried to express it by adding extra chunks to the cookies. Barbie didn’t catch the innuendo. The daytime moon followed her as she danced around her fuchsia bedroom. The microprocessor in her heels autotuned the birdsong. Her vintage Google glasses tinted the view of the dying hydrangea. Outside, a tidal wave of strangers tried to remake the narrative. They praised the way social media keeps you from obsessing on a single other. They formed a circle around a circle around a home where nothing used to be. “Blank doesn’t mean nothing” read the words on the teeth of a god.


Photograph of Joanna Fuhrman by Joanna Fuhrman.

Joanna Fuhrman is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Pageant (Alice James Books 2009) and The Year of Yellow Butterflies (Hanging Loose Press 2015). Recent poems and poetry videos have appeared in Conduit, Fence, NAW, Moving Poems, Triquarterly, Posit, and Volt. She teaches creative writing at Rutgers University and at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writers Village program for teens. Her sixth book of poetry, To a New Era, is forthcoming from Hanging Loose Press in 2021. The poems published here are from a new project called Data Mind, about living on the Internet as a non-digital native. For more see: More from this author →