639: An Algorithm Matches Me With a Nice Girl and I Tell Her

639: An Algorithm Matches Me With a Nice Girl and I Tell Her

639: An Algorithm Matches Me With a Nice Girl and I Tell Her


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I bet most people think poets believe that language is everything. That we subscribe to the idea that language is the way we unravel the world. In some ways that might be true, but many poets are also highly committed to the failure of language. Sometimes that failure is what brought us to the page in the first place.

Even as a child I loved the way mispronunciations or mistranslations would create whole new definitions. My grandmother called the Osterizer blender, the Ostracizer. And so I always imagined a blender who ostracized every other kitchen appliance. She’d also say that someone exasperated their cereal instead of aspirated, so I’d imagine someone just talking way too long and too much to their corn flakes until they just gave up and walked away.

It felt like there was magic in those little slips in language. In the way we get things wrong, in the way our imagination fills in the space. I’ve always loved that. I’ve always thought some poets were born because we hear those mistakes. I once mistook “Put the cart before the horse” as “Put the heart before the course” and it still makes more sense to me.

In today’s poem, the speaker allows us to see how the places where language falls apart are the places that sometimes shape our whole reality. The poem also shifts into how a crush can make language disappear entirely.

An Algorithm Matches Me With a Nice Girl and I Tell Her
by Jireh Deng

I have always been grasping for words
like when my mother phones customer service
dressed in her best American Accent™.
I was a part of a music program, Giving Bach;
she pronounced it bark. Isn’t that what is asked of us?
Heel and sit, repeat as told. A pledge of allegiance I always closed
with “Jesus for all”. When I ask for salami at the grocer,
instead, tsunami pours out: a titular chirping in my chest,
ossified wings in my throat. I am safest without language
to wound (I mean /wound/) – wind myself around
a bastion of stories. I am gatekeeper and pariah. Mess-
iah and anti-Christ. I know wisdom is just a graveyard of teeth.
Alone is a city that will not carry your dead. Money as in time,
as in communists call us slaves to capitalism,
but we seem to forget human nature is a sower.
A sorrow seeder, in·​ter·​ne·​cine, being halfway bold
or stupid. 4 is also death, and the character 四
is also a window, a mouth, an esophagus. I don’t know
the difference between agápē and agape. An uncle once showed me
how he kept his youngest son’s eaten chicken bones in a study
drawer. So clean, he had gnawed off all the cartilage.
Does this mean I have been swallowed thrice before?
The ancient sapien instinct: love is an approximation to danger.
You make me feel safe, so I want to run away.

"An Algorithm Matches Me With a Nice Girl and I Tell Her" by Jireh Deng. Used by permission of the poet.