The Robot Scientist’s Daughter [villainess]

makes the perfect villainess. The impling can already
assemble solar coils and silicon chips, so make way.
In her hands a piece of paper becomes a bird,
a stack of metal a monster.

She grew up playing chess against the computer,
making aliens stick out their tongues.
She knows the click of the Geiger counter
better than her own heart, which moans
and swings unlike any machine.

She grew up with a string of undifferentiated dogs,
each slightly smarter than the last, each with its tongue
lolling to the side. They all looked exactly
like TV’s Lassie, and they were all named Lassie.
We suspected them to be prototypes,
because of the spontaneous combustion.
There were always men in black,
always the clicking on the phone line,
and the badges we knew weren’t to be trusted.

Like a game of chess, the making of bombs is delicate,
requires planning to assemble and disassemble.
What they sowed in the ground isn’t gone;
it’s in the mouths of their children when they chew
the weeds. Their children grow reedy
and anemic, their needy fists clenching,
skipping grades and affronting the public.
Any day now. We’re watching.

— Jeannine Hall Gailey, from The Robot Scientist’s Daughter

This poem is offered as part of our May theme: Heroes & Villains

T.S. Poetry