ROBOT, by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and now lives in the DC area. She is the author of two full length poetry collections (forthcoming)/ Her chapbook Clown Machine is forthcoming from Grey Book Press this summer. Recent work can be seen or is forthcoming at Jet Fuel Review, Freezeray, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Inter/rupture, Poor Claudia, and decomP. Visit:

Robot #1

The robot recharges/(He) It/ lays on the an electrical field of day old refrigerator drippings/ receives shock therapy/ the fake horse hair soft/ sloping over a dampened scalp/ The robot’s eyes are big to warm(n) you/ it can tighten them to shut(n) you out/squeeze those circles shut so that you are screaming at him(it) to open them/To hear you/ For even one second/ Even a metal touch is better than no touch/ But it cannot touch you now because of the recharging process and it (he) could electrocute you/ Sometimes you’d rather be electrocuted, than feel like a tree growing in the middle of a glacier/ The pelting ice running down your(our) cheeks, never melting

RF Module
: RF means Radio Frequency. The robot has two of these modules. One is a lower frequency (433 MHz) device that allows the robot to take commands from a remote control. The other is of a higher frequency (2.4 GHz) that transmits video signals from the robot to the remote.

Robot #6 (vent)

A big gulp situation is not paid for. It’s a heart attack in progress. But he (it) has no heart: just a command center. START. BEEP. Human stops relate to brain and heart. (it) cannot compute this. (it) lacks eye crinkles so it cannot be trusted. The magnitude and coldness of a square torso sheathed in an orANge and blue plaid cover, a material we can relate too, creates a SOFTness. I want to thrust my fist upon it. But he (it) does not open no matter what buttons I push. The air tight seals are hurricane disaster solid. There are some mini vents where some voice beeps make a run for it.

The robot uses a thin metal wheel with notches or teeth in critical
positions around the outside edge. This wheel is inserted between legs of the U-shaped


Robot #12 (brain meld)

This document can give you an idea of what is inside the robot and how it was put
together. Most of the pages came from_______ documents that reside
in the factory. As you browse through the pages, you will see abbreviations that
have                                                                                                           no meaning to you.

He doesn’t know what I want to hear. That would take years of programming and we don’t have years. We have seconds until another trip to the store for oil. He follows directions—but how long before he anticipates what I want like a herding dog? Pick up a mop? Compliment my hair? Ask me about my day? Walk with me by the river, tell me a funny happenstance.

On the phone with COMPANY:

Yes I’ve pulled the white tab.

The coil is removed.

When does connection happen?

It doesn’t,             automatically?

I’ve rebooted several times.

I’ve not left him out in the rain.

Can he be re-programmed?

I’ve not fed him the wrong items.

Can he be returned?

I’ve given him private space to recharge.

I installed the emergency shower.

I’ve never pushed him.

I don’t have that warranty.

But he’s never              Oh.

Robot #16 (fauna)


a robot walks into the woods

chipmunks      scamper over   metal shins

          to learn blending qualities
          How strong the trees,
          how bronze the leaves
                                                            little ears,
                                                            consistent sounds – creek water
or the call of the crow

The way the sun moves slightly to the upper right each dawn.

No human looks directly at                            the sun

The sun is not just orange and red but black violence

The Robot cannot sweat

WARNING: heat /torso / flammable

Note: Bolded, italicized font is taken from the RoboScout S1583 Robot Instruction Manual. (Copyright 2001, The Sharper Image.)