Two Poems – Emma Neale

Feeling Only Sort of Sorry for the Robots

The professor says that memory is not precious; it is not unique.
It’s just one biological unit looking at itself and where it’s been
and what other biological units it has shared its time frame with
and of course it’s all been done before.

Here, now, at the gold-pollen-scummed pond
where the leaves tremble on the trees
like the sequins on a green sari,
three particles of life force
see two even smaller particles of life force;
all five of them just rather inaccurate genetic computers
calling up past data: blood alphabet, sight and sound alphabet,
sweat and tears alphabet, pause alphabet, process alphabet,
bread crumb alphabet, mouldy crust alphabet,
do ducks like raisins alphabet?

The medium-sized device runs a program
that does up a zip, adjusts a hat, wipes a small nose, and says,
‘Look at the white ducks, sweetheart!
Clean as a thistle, and what yellow beaks, what red feet,
like tiny, webbed, skin-tight gumboots,’
in that tone of self-delight that says
surely no other skin and bone computer
has yielded these results before.

But today even the professor concedes
that my, here, now, the illusion’s a beauty
as two of the feather-and-bone machines
wobble into puddles, sploship about,
send up water in fine, spectral arcs,
toss it from their backs again in small fiery sparks
and even seem to get the whole cosmic joke
as they download more data:
app, app, app, app, app.



A woman shakes
like swollen rain

single water-pearl
on a twig tip

she crouches
with the molecular spin
of identity

head sweat-pressed
against death
as if hand
maps hand
through a window’s
tense membrane


a bolt
from a jammed lock

she pushes
            on time’s
taut skin

electric breath
races the lung’s
tender, pyrophoric

blue clench
unfurls to rose

Emma Neale is the author of five novels and four collections of poetry, the most recent of which, The Truth Garden (Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 2012), was the recipient of the 2011 Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry.