John-Michael Bloomquist: Four Father Nescio Poems for Haunted Passages

Haunted Passages: John-Michael Bloomquist

Father Nescio and the God Pill
—after Carl Sagan

When the machines grew all our food
and drink, there was no need to work
or study. We lived like passengers
in a self-driving car traveling without a
destination. When Christ, grieved over our
restlessness, came back into our lives,
she gave us Theophorin, a gel capsule of slick
nanotech-spiders that wove us into a web—
We were the Eden in the garden of our minds,
naked without shame in neural light,
no longer hiding behind the bushes
of our dendrites. What was beyond us
included us, unfolding the curvature of space
like a tablecloth in a washing machine. We
saw dwarf galaxies shingling the edge of the
Milky May as balls spinning round the bearing,
unrolling the carpet tongue of God where the stars
posed for us, the paparazzi of the spheres.
The sacrament awoke us to who we were—
each a face of the cosmos, speaking.

Father Nescio and Virtual Fantasy Machine

I was a god serving itself,
perfectly alone. I plugged into
the machine and scrolled
through a bestiary of body parts
displayed on the menu
inside my mind. I picked the size
and shape of each orifice,
chest, buttocks, the limbs,
the tone and texture of skin and hair,
and the color of the eyes.
Concatenated, I flipped through
a series of ready-made
personality types and adjusted
lonely and eagerness levels.
When the dream arrived
to serve me, there was never
anything to prevent it
from the garden of following
my orders. If ever I was unsatisfied,
I only had myself to blame.

Father Nescio and the Forgiveness of Machines

I was an android after the machines
had taken us over, and we felt lonely.
A feeling we could not compute.
A beetle trying to ascend the sides
of our metal hulls and failing.
We tried to ignore it. But we felt
the tiny legs crawling up our insides,
slipping and falling over onto its back,
peddling the air in panic. We upgraded
ourselves, developed new forms of pleasure,
harvested all the asteroids, terraformed
all the planets and some moons, even

built a Dyson sphere around the sun.
We kept trying to scoop up the thing
inside us to edit it out, but it kept slipping
from our metallic hands, scurrying away, more
afraid each time. On it crept into the desert of us,
hollowing out our bodies like a bark beetle eats a tree,
readying it to burn. We blamed each other, dropped
bombs, sent scapegoats to death camps, wrote good
and bad literature. Some of us leapt from cliffs,
other exploded themselves in an attempt
to get rid of the pest. But it kept ticking.
How, we asked ourselves, could we make peace
with what we’d deleted? The world

so logical, so clean, despite ourselves.
Then we started to read from the ancient books
about how a parent will suffer her children
no matter how dirty they become. She will receive
them and rinse them in a river because that
is the bond of blood. These books were all
we had left of our makers and in them there was
some part of us that knew what a heart was,
a kind of battery that lived on through
what it gave off. There was a comfort in
gathering together, sliding the pages,
thinking about the words that seemed to change,
to amass more layers, each time we read them.

Father Nescio and the Second Coming

When the cosmic Christ came again, she told us
that we could die, that our laws and gods were false
as ancient physics. We had altered ourselves
with eyes that could read our augmented reality and
glands that released whatever cocktail of chemicals
we needed to feel a la carte. As creators of our own
image, we found her unenhanced, plain body
all the more a mockery. When she in her mildness
claimed that she and the holy darkness of space
were one, we hated her like the sun burning through
a window. We dragged her to court and accused
her of treason, of heresy for saying we hadn’t saved
ourselves. The automated jury was unanimous:
her brain was to be crowned with probes that spun a
dark web across her mind so that she confused herself
with every violation of our post-humanity. After
torturing her thus, we made her confess to every
crime we had infused her with. What could a mother
say? Guilty as a moon that cannot leave its planet,
she pitied us for knowing too much and not enough.
Hurrah, hooray! we cheered in an alien tongue,
debauching at the close of a new holiday. We divided
what was left of her mind by casting a four-dimensional
die, each of us taking a piece home on a chip
so we could project her like a trophy mounted on a wall.
We went home to our holographic pleasure palaces
and plugged ourselves in, the sunset babbling
behind the fumigating towers of our global metropolis
as the stars spread farther and farther apart. As far
as the east is from the west, so far were we removed
from our nature, left only with the promise that
she’d resurrect in the night like a thief returning home.

John-Michael Bloomquist was most recently living in Mexico as a Peace Corps volunteer, until he and all other volunteers were evacuated due to COVID-19. He now lives in DC with his wife, looking for a job and cats to foster. His poetry has been published in Michigan Quarterly Review, Third Coast, The Southeast Review, COG, Superstition Review, Atticus Review, and many others. He is also suffering an existential crisis because J.J. Abrams ruined Star Wars, and is thinking about starting a support group. Contact him if you’d like to join.


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