Joel Brouwer

The assembly declared solitude
sick and presented a syringe. We hid
in the attic to practice. We logged on
to submit suggestions for the FAQ.
We hitchhiked to the assembly’s farm upstate,
shared dirty shirts and passwords. We gathered
our fates. We could choose any room
but never the same one two nights in a row.
We claimed our places in the algorithm
and paced our days with epithets.
Hey buddy, hey contact, hey friend.
I’ll follow you if you’ll follow me.
Clips demonstrated which links to click.
We scrolled through the agreement and agreed.

Soon our hair grew as long as
a horse’s tail in a video.
The assembly asked if we could have
any power what power would it be?
And haven’t we anyway inadvertently eaten
enough of each others’ skin cells to all
be kin by now? We could download any clip
for free but never watch alone. In one
a horse did something hilarious.
We feared the assembly would see us.
Then we were the assembly and saw
ourselves. Whenever we needed to refresh
our powers we peeled the duct tape
back off the webcam lens.

Come to our bunk with a lantern!
Choose any unclaimed avatar!
We deliquesced into the assembly
as sugar into syrup. The assembly
expressed concern about our cervix—
a crooked stem begets no bloom—
and suggested a set of search terms.
We reset our settings and un-blocked
pop-ups. Products moved through us
as wind through trees. Love got
rough and pixelated just before
its signal dropped. Our bodies lay
forgotten in a field, our saps
differing from currency in theory.

We weren’t sure whether the various
promised getaways—to Mars, South Beach, Hell—
were metaphorical. In a rare glitch,
the assembly declared suburban vermin
buy chicken coops online to pretend
they’re pioneers and decimate forest
for fiber optic to connect shit-eaters
with their shit. We stayed awake
for days to fix it, drilling post
after post. The assembly slipped out
late to see what trended by moonlight.
The shadows monetized our patterns
at angles deemed soft. A child broke his arm
for a few more rewardable moments.

The assembly folded diapers all morning,
then drove the old school bus to town
and sent us into stores to steal iodine
and matches. The assembly bought us
power-ups, chances at backstage lanyards,
and frozen yogurt. We each got one bite.
This one girl’s captions for memes
were magic, so many spikes it was sick,
and after she said syntax was an asshole
and slapped her laptop shut as quick
applause the assembly said Christ, finally,
some organic serendipity. We never saw
any babies or anyone pregnant
and no one ever won the mountain bike.

It seemed millions of different things
were happening but it was only one
done over and over. We uploaded flashlights,
baloney sandwiches, and our preferences
in a cave. The interstate was closer
than we thought. Click by click our platforms
gave way under us, and we felt super
disempowered. An owl glided out from the pines,
we supposed to sponsor the rabbit kicking
in its grip, but we didn’t like it, at least
not in real time, though we’re thinking we want
when we reenter the research phase
to revisit disgust and insignificance
as trends we might queue for rebrand.