“The android speaks in free verse,” “Speak now, when there is too much else to hold” and “#52”

by Emma Wold

 

The android speaks in free verse

A theory:

It is actually 2024.

Six years ago,

My job was determined to be automatable,

And I was replaced by a robot

Designed to scour the internet for pictures of women wearing red lipstick

(Incidentally, the robot was also let go after completing the job in under an hour and throwing a tantrum).

Unable to find new work,

I was classified as a non-essential

And issued a corner

To bide my time

Until the government wraps its head around Universal Basic Income.

I am there.

This -

Here -

Is a broken-down, split-brain delusion for the destitute,

And here, I am the robot.

That is, I used to be an animal and now I am a not.

It went like this:

The firm was firmly situated

To convert to fully automated,

When an ambitious insider whispered that their profits margins could be elevated

If they kept their existing employees

And just tweaked them instead

By turning their thoughts down

So the binary could be activated.

It’s way less paperwork,

So your up-tops won’t get too frustrated,

Plus

You don’t have to kick out your friends

(Who would then need, legally, to be compensated).

And so I never left -

I just sat there looking at the light and faded.

Slowly, my thoughts abated,

Giving way to 1’s and 0’s,

Thought and action regulated,

Robot Emma calibrated,

Former self thus abdicated,

As the corporate blueprint stipulated,

I was not tossed out and replaced,

I was created.

Speak now, when there is too much else to hold

I banished my voice

Hoping to see if I had something to say

After all,

Once and for all.

Hoping I’d find out what I was made of in there

If I let enough of it build up.

But nothing built up like what I thought.

No novels

No grand speeches

No protest chants

No quotable sitcoms

No TED talks

No weight-loss blogs

None of that.

No

Instead what I found,

What I missed,

What I felt bubbling from the deepest trenches of me

Were good mornings.

So many of them.

Have a good one,

Cooing at my little girl good job,

And thank you.

Pressure building

I pulled my mouth as wide as it could go

But could not get it open -

How’s it goin’?

I gave out more smiles

And waves -

Good to see ya!

I handed out handshakes

When I was bursting with

I’ve missed you

Take care!

I kissed as many cheeks as I could reach

And I couldn’t keep up -

Hellos -

Goodbyes -

So many of them.

They piled up so high

They almost started to look like a life.

And I was missing them -

So many of them.

#52

A hand falls out of focus.

It is not directly in front of the eyes,

Making it too far away for now

And it falls away from hand.

First an extra finger grows,

Somewhere in the middle it seems.

They are difficult to count.

Or was it always five and a thumb?

By now all the nails have disappeared into the highlights

Since there are no more whites to bite down.

All one color, it looks more starfish than hand

All splayed out

Or that coral dead man’s fingers.

Better a starfish.

Clear water hugging and rocking its back,

Stomach pressed up on a rock

To hide that dry spot from the tide.

If the ocean wanders too far away

Giving the starfish to the sun

Does it feel itself cook?

An answer fingers could find

If they were still fingers

But now as a starfish shrivels without water,

So do the late fingers within.

Odd -

They never much pictured drowning,

But while they’re at it,

It doesn’t look so different from swimming

For hands.

Closer to the end,

It looks more like treading,

If somewhere else the legs are doing all the work,

But if hands were too far for the eyes,

The legs are on their own,

And in the darkness that follows,

All is one clean simple everynothing.

Out of focus

It is calm

About the Author

Emma Wold

I grew up hiding notebooks full of verse and stories when it would have been horribly uncool to be known to be trying in any way at all. I studied Drama and Economics in school, which is to say that I want to spend as much time as possible thinking about why people do things. I originally came to poetry through my background in theatre, and I continue to feel the influence of playwrights like Sarah Ruhl and artists like the Neo-Futurists in my home city of Chicago. From the latter, I learned that on stage and in poetry, anything goes, so long as it communicates, and I hold tightly to that.