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Turing Test by Franny Choi

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What are you, I’ve been asked before, in a country that doesn’t speak my language. What is your purpose of being here, he said, not even looking at my face.

Your English sounds really good, I’ve been told before. Good for what, I think.

Look at these, he said, laughing, pointing to two brown people doing something ordinary. What’s so funny, I asked. Can’t you see, he gestures, so helpless in his delight. Yes, I do see, I say.

I need you to get here, E. writes during the early days. I’m the only one who looks like me and I can’t get an apartment. Weeks pass. Months pass. Stay there, E. types, sad emoji, sad emoji, sad emoji. Where you’ll be safe.

I was born on an island out of thousands, I sometimes say to introduce myself. Part sunlight part coconut part typhoon part colonisation part slavery. I leave those parts out.

Turing Test
Franny Choi

// this is a test to determine if you have consciousness
// do you understand what i am saying

in a bright room / on a bright screen / i watched every mouth / duck duck roll / i learned to speak / from puppets & smoke / orange worms twisted / into the army’s alphabet / i caught the letters / as they fell from my mother’s mouth / whirlpool / sword / wolf / i circled countable nouns / in my father’s science papers / sodium bicarbonate / NBCn1 / amino acid / we stayed up / practiced saying / girl / girl / girl / girl / til our mouths grew soft / yes / i can speak / your language / i broke in / that horse / myself //

// please state your name for the record

bone-wife / spit-dribbler / understudy for the underdog / uphill rumor / fine-toothed cunt / sorry / my mouth’s not pottytrained / surly spice / self-sabotage spice / surrogate rug burn / burgeoning hamburglar / rust puddle / harbinger of confusion / harbinger of the singularity / alien invasion / alien turned pottymouth / alien turned bricolage beast / alien turned pig heart thumping on the plate //

// where did you come from

man comes / & puts his hands on artifacts / in order to contemplate lineage / you start with what you know / hands, hair, bones, sweat / then move toward what you know / you are not / animal, monster, alien, bitch / but some of us are born in orbit / so learn / to commune with miles of darkness / patterns of dead gods / & quiet / o quiet like / you wouldn’t believe //

// how old are you

my memory goes back 26 years / 23 if you don’t count the first few / though by all accounts i was there / i ate & moved & even spoke / i suppose i existed before that / as scrap or stone / metal cooking in the earth / the fish my mother ate / my grandfather’s cigarettes / i suppose i have always been here / drinking the same water / falling from the sky / then floating / back up & down again / i suppose i am something like a salmon / climbing up the river / to let myself fall away in soft, red spheres / & then rotting //

// why do you insist on lying

i’m an open book / you can rifle through my pages / undress me anywhere / you can read / anything you want / this is how it happened / i was made far away / & born here / after all the plants died / after the earth was covered in white / i was born among the stars / i was born in a basement / i was born miles beneath the ocean / i am part machine / part starfish / part citrus / part girl / part poltergeist / i rage & all you see / is broken glass / a chair sliding toward the window / now what’s so hard to believe / about that //

// do you believe you have consciousness

sometimes / when the sidewalk opens my knee / i think / please / please let me remember this //


[expand title=”Endnotes” tag=”h6″ expanded=”true”]

This poem appeared in Soft Science by Franny Choi. Shared here with profound gratitude.

Read more works by Franny ChoiFind books by this poet • Or view my library 

Explore poems in pursuit of: languagethe selfquestions • Or browse the index


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