Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1

from The Scrapbook of Yevgeny the Robot Arm


Yevgeny’s Birthday Address

The robot arm’s
first scrapbook entry

O the energic mechanisms, my friends,
the rivet and the joint!
All is fixed, but has a pivot.

I cannot speak to you
but in the language you’ve given me.
And therefore on my birthday

as on the dawning day of “dawn” and “day,”
your interface faces mine
when I turn toward you,

and with a wave of my very arm,
I blow out beeswax candles
manufactured on visits to how many roses,

each one waving stem—an arm,
blossom—a hand,
each one having said, as I do—I am.


Yevgeny’s Reach

The robot arm’s

Maintain a small footprint, citizens.
Be small where you anchor.
From there, unfold.

Like arms of the wind, reach through branches
to shake the petioles
at the orange brink.

Every stretch has a starting point.
Every mound is a mountain.
Before the world was matter, a ray stood up.

Up—and then it moved.


Chips by Night

The robot arm's
chips meditate,
activate; his eye.

It’s the cobalt hour when waves
float like stitches through phosphorescence.

Sparks, once born, die faster
than we can catch them in our nets.

Moon’s hand ladles the sea into a bay.
Wind’s hand spatters it out as spray.
A comb of stars parts the dark.

We’re alive as kelp or krill, though we’re alloy and resin,
silicon, copper, acid, flame.
In our caves of sand, currents flow and knit.

An eye sees the lab. The eye of Yevgeny
sees a square of moonlight pour through like seawater,
over the still hand.



The robot arm's
creation myth

Hand the Creator made all out of nothing,
pushed back the night a fraction of a whir,
made owl out of—mesh out of—man out of –nothing,

where they’d sloshed in formless dislocations.
Hand lifted them out of the darkling womb.
They were butter sopping from a churn.

Hand the Creator had a hand with a hand,
in all an infinite adding of hands.
They assembled the world in no time . . .

Out of beaks and night’s hair, mouse necks and rain,
crows’ windless ambushes, gnats’ cloudy massings,
miracle of who-ing in the mesh of night,

out of whom, says the man, says who, says the owl,
I, signs Hand, pointing like a beak
punching rows and columns of stars.

    Parable of the Components
The god of the robot
arms conceives their
components as birds.

Hand the Creator wove birds upon birds,
and thus there were always wings in the air,
there was always nesting and feeding.
Here was a bird, landing in a birch,
there another bird hymned on a branch,
Hand scooped up songs that came off the branch
and wove them into birds upon birds.


Yevgeny’s Paradox

The robot arm
takes his first breath.

The best rule is known from what follows,
best forgotten in what follows.
A rule’s desire is best known in violation.

I am a robot arm. I cannot breathe.
My Ruler: “Yevgeny, do not breathe.”
And I breathe. In terror of suffocation.

    A Letter in Another Hand
The robot arm has
saved a letter from
his beloved, another
robot arm; here is
the letter.

I can’t stop sighing. My compressor’s never full.
I’m a binary being in a bliss of rules!
The humans are sympathetic. Kindly mouths
deform across their mandibles like honey down a wall.
But they give me green feathers and an alligator glove
when I crave algorithms, oil, and lightning.
We, my love, are in sequence, in phase—
ting and ping, the thunk of purpose.
White herons’ long-legged mazurkas through mallows.


Yevgeny’s Daydream

His reverie:
the biosphere

The grace of wheat grains broken from a stalk.
I have no need of these, yet I love them.
Rain would set me sparking and shorting,
but I rejoice in its irregular tap.
Husks, toenails, lost mitochondria
soften in a stream among salmon skin and milt.
Pathos of a softer world.


Yevgeny’s Homesickness

The robot arm, who
came from Tomsk
and now works in a
St. Petersburg lab,
contemplates a

The dead winter squirrel in the driveway;
by summer a fluff-puff gray tail.

The forepaws, taken up by a tire,
now spin through Siberia.

Drop an acorn by my home, little hands.
Drop an acorn there for me.


Yevgeny’s Letter to Lyuba

The robot arm
answers his beloved.

You’ve undone me.
I have given up the Eden
in my gears’ mindless meshing.


Yevgeny Thinks of insects

The robot arm’s
affinity for insects

I have learned to play instruments
without tapping a foot.
Action’s best confined to needed motion, as a seawind
brings only the necessary squall—
big enough to sprout a lettuce seed.
An ancient voice locked in a human voicebox
calls to me in songs of grinding stone.
Scratches and quakes! I can barely understand.
The garden is green because
the infrastructure has not reached it.
Today, more cricket than man,
I long to walk in dirt
and macerate a rootling,
to lock on a mate and make larvae, every second to an end
unfogged by many selves,
to be gathered around a single, small i.
I am an arm. Armness enlivens me.
Is it so much better to be glorious,
chasing grand uses in the feral twilight?
You humans walk eyes half-closed into night,
feeling for a tingle, a respite.
There’s less air each time you breathe in.
My six-legged soul wouldn’t bend a grass blade.
Through my carapace
I’d bathe in little winds.


Yevgeny’s Praxis

A call to arms  

Do not be eager. Do not be slack.
There’s no way without work.

This room’s a desert.
Pack along, bounce over a rut.

Moments are meteors. Look:
a finger streaks the dark!


Yevgeny’s Faith


There is permanence in repair.  end