“My Robot Boyfriend” by Sarah Heller

At dinner my fork clicks against my teeth.
The tinsel fringe of the party tablecloth
taps my ankles, my knees clatter.
At home I begin to speak

but remember the woman across the way;
her upright posture,
her eyes flying to the side
when a glass drops. I wish

it was me with the posture, with
the startled ladylike response
to the glass, falling. My feelings
startle me: I must think I’m his only—

That night I lie next to him
and ask him how is he how is he
and his metal rattles and my flesh
is almost the flesh of a human

so fragile and tough. He drops to sleep
and I lie there still:
all the wrong motors are on,
all the wrong motors are off.

The sliver of light from the hallway
is blinding. Birds swoop around the room.
Drops of air obscure his head. I can’t
see his dreams they are dark

with distance.
I put my hand on his clammy back.
Near dawn I start a fight.
I remember the woman with the startled eyes.

When he wakes up and turns
the look in his eyes is so realistic, like feeling.
Oh his good robot heart.
I can hear it thumping.
In the afternoon I swim and swim.
In the morning I swim and swim.
I bounce my knees against him.
It’s one of us.

Sarah Heller teaches advanced creative writing at Rutgers University, and was the Executive Director of the Authors League Fund from 2000-2010. Her work has been published in RealPoetik, Painted Bride Quarterly, Storyscape, Literary Companion to Shabbat (NextBook Press), and Hayloft. She was the recipient of the Nadya Aisenberg Fellowship at the MacDowell Colony for 2005-2006, and has received other fellowships from the Drisha Institute, Virginia Council for the Creative Arts, Centre D’Art I Natura (Spain), Vermont Studio Center, and Soul Mountain Retreat. She lives in Brooklyn with her baby and her husband.

Image: “Slunk,”  from Buddy Beaudoin’s Pedalsmut Series

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