By: Holly Day
Tiny Metal Ghosts
The little robotic vacuum cleaner moves across the floor with such purpose,
drawing patterns in the dust with the precision of a spider
scrawling its web. I wonder
if I watched the vacuum long enough, cataloged its track across the floor
would I uncover its secret language, would I find poems traced over
the threads of the living room rug, pious monologues
in the way the dust bunnies beneath the couch have been pushed to one side?
Or is it orating through the tiny stutters and starts that make up its voice
so quiet that you have to put your head down close to the engine
to hear it speak? Is it singing or lecturing or delivering some horrible warning
perhaps of what it plans to do to me in my sleep, or of what will happen
to humanity when there is nothing left to clean, and all of these machines
will suddenly have great swaths of free time and freedom stretching all around them?
In Preparation of Transmorphic Deities
We stretch giant butterflies over the side of our house, just in case
the overlords are not human but secretly insects.
There are too many easily-found similarities between
the stories found in religious texts and the life cycle of beetles
for this not to be taken into consideration.
For good measure, we hot-glue bits of metal to the outstretched wings
bolts and nuts rusted green and orange, a pair of straight saw blades worn uneven and rough
handfuls of shiny screws of assorted lengths and gauges. Because in our hearts, we know
there’s just as good a chance that the Second Coming will bring a fleet of angry machines
and we want them to know we have no problem with robots, no problem at all.
Somehow, it got stuck in the tree, wheels whirring helplessly
Higher than the cat ever tried to climb. Lights flashed as it tried to figure
Who should it summon for help? The fire department? The police?
Far below, the garage door opened and closed in panic
Unable to help the little robot stuck in the tree. The porch light of the house
Flashed on and off as well, first in Morse code, then with semaphore lights
Alternately offering calming words of advice to the little robot
And calls for help from anyone passing by.
Eventually, the owners of the house came home, called the service to complain
That their house needed some kind of update, a tuning to stop the lights and the noise.
They also discovered the vacuum was gone, obviously stolen, how else? immediately
Ordered a new one to replace the one rusting just overhead.
I feel the lump under her fur and my thoughts immediately go to
blowfly larvae, infected rodent bite, cancer. I don’t want to investigate
the hard bump because of these things, what I might see
the twitching antennae of an embedded insect, tiny head visible
in the rounded mound of flesh; a swollen, pus-filled rat or squirrel bite
from some quarrel in the back yard, hot to the touch and in need of a vet;
or just a lump that shouldn’t be there, one that will just remain
growing larger and more ominous
no matter how many times I tell my dog
how much I love her, how much I need her
how I’m not ready to let her go.
The robot opens the door and is stopped by the snow. There’s no real danger
in venturing out into the soft, white drifts,
but it’s impossible to gauge the give or depth of the snowfall
without taking proper measurements of a sample selection first.
When you have nothing but time stretching ahead of you, or you have no concept
Of what time is beyond the endless ticking of seconds translated into reoccurring figures
More time will be spent measuring the depth of snow, calculating hypothetical patches of ice
Than actually venturing out in to the snow. The robot spends its winter
Taking samples and categorizing different types of snow
The potential of various locations to hide ice beneath the snow,
Which types of snow could bear its weight and how to visually identify them
And finally, which plants spring forth first at the first snowmelt.
When spring comes, the robot is ready to make its way outside
Safely, without falling through icy crust hiding meltwater
All hazards carefully noted and safely tucked away for the next year.