Friday, May 1, 2015

A Cyborg Story

This challenge is from my law school buddy Albert Wang.  While many of our classmates were freaking out about moot court, Albert and I were doing stuff like this.

Albert's challenge (in the form of a story):

It is the near future. There is a man who, after a horrific accident, has his entire body replaced by machine. His face, his hands, his legs, his heart - everything has been replaced by metal, circuits and silicone.

Well - nearly his entire body.  His brain - or at least parts of his brain matter, have been preserved.

Despite his technologically advanced body, he ends up taking a job as a laborer in a factory for the mass production of [insert your own product here].  The man intellectually knows something is wrong about the life he is leading, but because the sense of "wrongness" manifests only in a vague, neutral numb feeling, he does not bother to think of doing anything else outside of the routine programmed into him.

This all changes when one day, he sees a little girl and boy sneak into the factory. It is a dangerous factory, no place for children, but this does not bother him.  Rather he is just driven out of curiosity to follow the children, who have taken advantage of the lack of security at this factory.

As children are prone to do, they find themselves to the most dangerous part of the assembly line.  The watching cyborg man is overcome by a weird impulse as he sees the children unknowingly head towards a grisly fate... he charges forward and throws his body into the critical part of the machine, so as to prevent the children's death... only it is too late... 

The cyborg man awakens in a hospital to hear the bad news of the children's deaths. His previous mechanical body had been crushed, and he finds that it is replaced by a newer, more humbler mold. However, the critical piece, the heart, did not have readily available replacement... and instead, the doctors were forced to replace his mechanical heart with the hearts of both children, which somehow had been preserved in the accident.  His new hearts give him sensations he had long forgotten from his previous life before becoming a cyborg, but also the wholly new experience of having the youthful hearts of two young, innocent, curious children... the cyborg, once emotionless, is overwhelmed with feelings of grief, gratitude, and everything in between.  He is now entirely machine, as before, save for his heart, which are those of a young girl and boy.

Write a poem about this, however you want.
The poem:

The Saving Machine

Before you had this bag
of fat and sighs,
you were lighter.

When you break and engineers
remake you,
they'll salvage just
three pieces of your mind
to fit in a computer suit.
Then and now, you know
life is a matter
of pacing, lifting the pieces
of other machines that resemble
and reassemble terrific minerals.
Your body
of light bulbs
...where are you shining that
If you try to sacrifice your second
body to save a boy and girl
from dying in the teeth
of more dangerous machines,
you still won't escape your mind.

You'll wake up again, remade
with the hearts of those you saved
in your new body, which is soft
and indistinct as painted fire.

What is your best
and highest use?

In your first life,
you were childish.
In your second life,
you made and saved.
In your third,
you felt the pop pop pop
of the prophet's hermaphroditic heart.
Where can you escape?
Albert's review:
INTERESTING (note I am writing this poem review while inebriated).

I'll be honest, for whatever reason, I was offended by the first stanza (or whatever it's called).  I feel like whatever was alluded to in this first three lines was wholly an invention of you, and not connected to the prompt I gave you. And so, I excised the first 3 lines from my reading.

I really enjoy the rest of the poem. I gave you a very weird, somewhat specific premise, and I feel like you internalized it and sought out the emotional truth of what I was presenting.  I gave you the coming of creation of a mechanical man, a man forged and re-forged out of modern and future life, and you distilled it into the essence of  the struggle we face as humans today.

You inserted religion - no, I would say spirituality - into the poem. The "prophet's hermaphroditic heart". As the prompt patron of this poem, I feel like you presented to me challenges that I had not anticipated.  I told you that the mechanical man found himself reborn with the heart of two childs, one boy one girl.... and you found the truth in this premise which I had not realized, that there was a purpose to this experience of his.  The man, the mechanical man -- does he become less human with each surgery, or more? 

Sure, there are certain parts (even words) I don't like. For instance, the word "computer" should not be in this poem.  "Light bulbs" I'm also not a fan of.  Aside from these word choices though, you were on point in identifying an underlying dilemma to everything here.

You put the word "saved" in your title, and in the body of the poem a couple times.  Naturally it made me think of your Christian background (maybe not fair, but I know you), and I wonder if the religious connotations associated with this word fit with this poem and prompt. I think they do, though I didn't mean it to.

You mention that the mechanical man tried saving the children from "more dangerous machines".  I really like this. Not sure why, but the adding of depth to the dangerous scale of machines I think adds to this poem.

Okay. back to more drinking. Thanks for the poem!