Cynthia Arrieu-King

What is the uncanny valley? asks the student and I draw the graph on the board, and point to the lowest point, and then move up the slope; This is like a scarecrow, it’s kinda shaped like a human but you’re not sure; This is where you’d put a mannequin on the graph, this is where you’d put, say, a lifelike sex doll, and right here where this dip is...that’s where you would just reach for your knife.


People go back to observations said from the 60’s and say wow, they were prophets. Why do people think it’s a prophesy when it’s that things are not changing? The story hasn’t evolved.


Tonight I was standing in the yard while the dog ate grass and surveillance planes took off and landed in the airfield. The caravan at 1 AM blaring stereos, honking horns and yelling WAKE UP because the cops who killed Breonna Taylor still have their jobs and have not been charged.


When my brother and his wife say through the open window of the truck that the video was fake-- because the girlfriend is silent after they shoot her boyfriend, there’s no way you could be silent then--I wonder how many faked videos they have seen at the same time that I wonder how they don’t know she is silent out of terror.


My brothers taught me when I was little, while we watch cop shows, that a cop can shoot only in self-defense. The other person has to shoot first, otherwise the cop can’t touch them.


Today I read the headline that if you have an AI and enough photos of a person’s face you can create news that seems real. That your likeness could be altered into what seems to be you. And this means that we have to rely on the people we know.


Where is the looking at the face? Where is the human wrinkle upon wrinkle that you cannot fake in any way. I feel that every time I see a face that makes my stomach hurt, I look below it and it says, “this is not a real person, this is a computer-generated person.”


Your brothers tell you years in advance there’s going to be a civil war. They say 2016 but it doesn’t happen then. They say in April. But it doesn’t happen then. It’s just a lot of people believing an orchestration that alone would do nothing. They say there’s going to be trouble you should move up here or we’ll bring you an automatic rifle. You say bring me an automatic baseball bat. Or a taser.


Do you know your neighbors? I ask one brother and he says he doesn’t and he doesn’t care about them, he only cares about his family, he just wants to protect them. And I think about how many people it takes to sew up a wound, and hours, and silence or low music, and so many hands to get the clamp and the daub and the stitches tight and effective.


My brother is worried that the other brother will get killed in a riot. Because do I know what the police started out as? Slave patrol, I say.  But I don’t understand how he’s not worried that our brother will kill someone in a riot.


Who do you think I’m going to shoot when someone barges into the house?


Love thy neighbor versus know thy neighbor. Really know.


Rankine saying I do projects instead of individual poems because I believe in historical moments.


Because how could you possibly tell what is really happening in one moment? One needs a whole frieze, a whole constellation of moments to consider before the lies we are telling ourselves reveal themselves.


When I say to my brother through the open window of his truck it seems like the cops are full of people from the KKK and he and his wife laugh a weird high nervous laugh.


I remember getting struck by the rubber bullet and my entire body flooding with something more vivid than adrenaline, and putting my hand up, and looking at everyone to make sure I could walk off safely. My brothers looked out from behind their barrels and columns. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching them shoot my nephew, and each other.


Charity has the word for flesh in it.


Fussing at John back in the day because he never remembered to lock the door. Aren’t you worried about intruders or robbers? And he grumbles, no, because to him danger doesn’t come from outside the house but inside the house.


If you boil your father’s life down to a thesis, what’s the thesis? the interviewer asked me. I said, for mine, build something out of nothing. Kate said Learn by doing.


We don’t practice for death, we practice for--


And years later, I think how you sometimes now can’t tell if you’re looking at the real thing or something false. The photo of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone barrier spliced with the photo of a masked man carrying an assault rifle. Or the Minneapolis precinct on fire being titled Seattle: Crazy City.


When I was 20, I told my dad I was going to the grocery store but I went to a friend’s. I don’t even remember why I told him that. I came home and went upstairs to where he was reading in bed. It was the first time I had really lied to him. He looked up from his book and said, “Where did you go?” I said, “To the grocery.” And he said, “Why are you lying to me?”


I don’t tell my brothers what I think of their guns except that I tell them mom doesn’t want them in her house. Instead I tell the one he’s drunk the Kool-Aid and the other that he should be careful.


Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam will no longer use guns in their cartoons. What will they do instead? Hundreds of decals, t-shirts, cartoons, lunchboxes, underwear, sheets, in which they still carry a gun.


My brothers saying my dad thinking bb rifles were fine. That he was fine with guns. As if that’s the same as the Kalashnikov you put in his closet. This isn’t true.


I don’t understand him anymore, Dad said to me so many times, he thinks like a soldier.


Mistrust of people who cannot understand a jasmine crown.

Mistrust of people who seem to be threatened.

Mistrust of people who send memes.


Stage acting is all about addressing the ghost of your father, and being in film is about silence.


How being a stage actor is a bouquet.

A film actor is the whole garden.


Dad said sometimes you can’t tell if you are doing the right or wrong thing. Sometimes all you can do is pray.


Found In Volume 50, No. 06
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Cynthia Arrieu-King
About the Author

Cynthia Arrieu-King is an associate professor of creative writing at Stockton University and a former Kundiman fellow. Her books include The Betweens (Noemi Press, 2021) and Futureless Languages (Radiator Press, 2018).