The First Law of Robotics
What kind of malfunction brought you,
little daffodil, with the afterbirth
of an early February frost; what maker
of clocks, what loosed screw; what turned
and left the heart to beat alone
on the operating table while outside those doors
a woman sat and read in a magazine
how to be young forever. Childish thing, grown now
into this beast with poor penmanship and tax forms,
spent tea bags and the dandelion chain
your daughter draped over her wrist
in a gone summer while bees buzzed in the clover.
Sometimes I feel like I need to say love
a thousand times. Who would resist?
Inconsequential and robotic;
I am not really knowing myself these days.
Twenty-five years ago herpes chewed through the brain
of one E.P., coring his mind like an apple;
he remembers nothing, and takes his place in the world
as a man who eats breakfast and then goes for long walks.
What wound to have it all taken from you;
what blessing? What haunts us is a gift,
this bonfire of the hippocampus
burning a thousand Polaroids of fathers
throwing children into the air and mothers
drinking martinis; these are the birdish things that never return
and the sounds of wind through chimes before the storm.
I wonder now if anything is real—
standing against the privet, whispering secrets
to the seeds you’ve planted there in the garden.
Clay Matthews has published poetry in journals such as the American Poetry Review, Image, Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. His books are Superfecta (Ghost Road Press), RUNOFF (BlazeVox), Pretty, Rooster and Shore (both from Cooper Dillon), and Four-Way Lug Wrench (Main Street Rag Books). He currently lives in Elizabethtown, KY and teaches at Elizabethtown Community & Technical College.