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Friday, April 20, 2012


by Laura Shovan

They are robotic at fifteen, some boys,
quiet as proverbial church mice. Their motors
skitter discreetly beneath the hum
of the family refrigerator, beneath their mothers’
“how was school” banter, beneath the nagging,
the talk-talk, the “I’ll try anything”
to chase him out of this Tin Man stage,
this heartless construction with its monotone
and monosyllables. Even his angles are jerky.

My son called from Nebraska, at last
back at the Best Western late
from Robotics, where his machine,
concoction of metal, gears,
arm lifting objects in its ingenious elevator,
was not picked for the team. It sat
in its 18 by 18 shipping box,
ignored and folded on itself,
elevator arm tucked away.

And in the morning, driving somewhere --
a distraction from my son’s distance -- the radio.
A boy in Datta, not yet sixteen, no church mouse,
volted into protest, its jolts in his wires,
powering up his voice box. Later,
when he called home from jail, his mother said
his voice had changed, the words almost
unrecognizable. Electric shock will do that.
Still, he said what they all say.
It’s in their wiring. We have programmed them
to say it. Now they are men
and they are fine.

Laura Shovan is editor of Little Patuxent Review. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize in 2010. Her work has been featured at Verse Daily and won an Honorable Mention in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. She is the editor of Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems (MWA Books), featuring 50 Maryland poets.  Laura is a Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence.