Poetry / Garrett J. Brown
:: Manual Recall ::
On your 39th birthday you discover the 2600 in a museum, wood-grain trim on the black plastic console locked behind a glass display, plugged into a cathode ray television for authenticity. But the joy- stick was loose, inviting young digital natives to toy with 8-bit blips after spraying handprints on sheets of block paper to learn how the artists of Lascaux coded created by. You spy Adventure & send your cursor avatar spelunking into the invisible maze. As a kid you loathed the gray screen that surrendered just glimpses of the path ahead, spent hours bumping walls, chasing bats, ending in the hollow of Yorgle’s belly until the level finally was mastered, so that now, here, in our 21st century, though deleted from your conscious mind, your hands recall the routine: down, left, down, right, up until you stand again before the castle gates, pleased a part of you never released the grip.
:: Glitch ::
Narrative comes unstitched I return to find the quest giver dead Plot in knots instead of a twist Back to the load screen to sift Past saves & recover the thread Before narrative comes (un)stitched Cyber-moshers nose the rift Between image & code, bend Data to bits the original twist Was an ordinary moth adrift Coiled in wires wings spread Among circuits looped & stitched Inside gears & tape it slipped Cursorial legs treading Punched manila stock & twists Language & mutations (in)(per)sist Metamorphic viruses shred Artifice stitched (un)  [Syn- tax Error] [Fail Whale] [NO CARRIER] Again? Sonavabitch
From the writer
:: Account ::
It’s absurd how much of our lived experience is sunk below our consciousness, dormant neural circuits ready to sizzle back to life given the right circumstances. The moment that inspired “Manual Recall” was like Proust’s cookie, but more embodied than encoded. I could not have explained in language, nor pointed the way through Adventure’s mazes. Any attempt to bring the solution to the conscious mind simply got in the way of the muscle memory. Adventure’s mazes also hide what many consider to be the first video game “Easter Egg”: a secret room where programmer Warren Robinett signed his name on the screen in defiance of the owners of Atari.
“Glitch” began with a problem common in video games that could be considered the great-grandchildren of Adventure: you may recover the quest object, maybe a family heirloom a villager lost to bandits, but when you try to return it, you discover the villager has been killed in a randomly generated encounter and you can’t complete the quest. Games such as these insist on being a narrative genre, but there’s always tension between plot and the freedom of the player, always room for slippage and glitch. The “cyber-moshers” are a reference to databending, a process where errors are deliberately introduced into the code of a digital image, video, or sound file to create distortion. This technique is common in what is sometimes referred to as “glitch art,” which has its roots in Chicago’s video arts movement of the 1970s.
Garrett J. Brown’s first book of poems, Manna Sifting, won the Liam Rector First Book Prize from Briery Creek Press in 2009, and his chapbook, Cubicles, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2014. His other awards include first place in the Poetry Center of Chicago’s Juried Reading, judged by Jorie Graham; runner-up in the Maryland Emerging Voices competition; and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Poetry East, TriQuarterly, Natural Bridge, and Passages North. He makes his home in Baltimore and is an Aassociate Pprofessor at Anne Arundel Community College.