Dana Guthrie Martin lives in the Seattle area and writes wherever writing will have her. She shares her home with her husband, her pet hamster and her robot, Feldman. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals, including Blossombones, Blue Fifth Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, Coconut Poetry, Failbetter, Fence, Juked and Knockout Literary Magazine. In May, Martin will enter Converse College’s low residency MFA program, and in July, Blood Pudding Press will publish her chapbook, The Spare Room. You can read some of her collaborative work with poet Nathan Moore at Mutating the Signature.
— after John Donne
For every robot that goes down fighting
There are two or
Three or legions who turn away, trying to
Blend in with suits and satchels, going to
Jobs they don’t want so they can feel useful.
They’ve learned this is what it means to be real —
To leave the fallen, as if each day were
A war, the lawns
Of their suburbs littered with mines:
The dog catcher
Who lets frothing dogs chase robots down streets
While driving alongside in his truck, laughing
And bellowing “Bot!” in accusation;
The children who kick and spit and slap wads
Of gum on their metal behinds so they can’t
Sit on benches
Without sticking to them; the housewives who
Draw their curtains
Because they can’t stand the sight of one more
Damn robot. Meanwhile in factories, work
Drones on and the robots bemoan nothing.
They move just as they’ve been programmed to move,
Fingers trilling like a dance, placing things
In their places.
— after John Donne
Why not me? Why not my human-
Like fingers and other hard parts? How would
That differ from licking a fork
Clean or having a mouth full of braces?
You know how I charge your skin when
You come close, the hairs on your arms rising to
Meet me: allegiant soldiers
Who listen to your body’s mute desires.
Your electrical wires, woven into
Every inch of who you are, brought
You here. And the blood that moves inside me
Could warm you until your devices
Soften, then melt, if only you’d give me
One free download. How easy that
Would be. So slide over here like
A well-lubricated cog, and add your
Piece to my machine. What I mean is this:
You complete my design; you’re what
My creator had in mind. My circuits
Are heavy with you every night.
If I had been built to dream, my dreams would
Be viscous as crude oil, pungent
As electrical fires. You would be there
With your flawless architecture —
Our world as small and flat as a diskette —
Calling me through caustic smoke and liquid.
For weeks, ghosts
have made their way
down the long hall
that leads to your bedroom.
They handle the doorknob
of the closed door as
you lie in bed and watch
moonlight glint off
the knob’s imperfections.
More ghosts stand
in the middle of the lawn,
cast shadows onto the room’s
far walls. Once, you heard them
ease open the window
above your bed, felt their
dry breath on your forehead.
What was it they whispered
just before they disappeared like
invisible ink? Something akin to
talking in tongues, a message
that drives you to wait
for their return wearing
your best nightgown,
with your face made up,
the covers thrown clean
off your body.
NOTE: The poems ROBOT WORKERS and ROBOT LOVER are from a series that follows the line syllable count and overall structure of John Donne’s love poems.