nthposition online magazine

Almost like real skin

by Janice D Soderling

[ poetry - september 08 ]

I had the weirdest dream, there was this dim
and empty room, and behind a wall of glass,
a flag materialized, backlit and fluttering, and
I am not saying what country's flag it was, just
that it was a flag, that awesome symbol of the
nation state and fervid jingoism, it blinked on,
then off again, and in trooped robots. Oh, they
looked like people, just as real as you and me,
but I knew, as dreamers know in dreams, that
they were really robots, though people-sized
and dressed in a variety of garb, even though
their eyes looked real, even though their skins
were almost like real skin, but once in Cologne,

I was at the Museum Ludwig, alone in a small

room with a lady objet d'art that looked as real
as these androids looked, but she did not reply
when I spoke to her (it seemed polite to speak,
because we were alone in that small room and
I had nearly bumped into her, but she could not
talk back), and it was like that, in my dream,
in trooped these robots looking just like people,
every size and shape and color, they were pursing
their lips or blowing their nose, or asking for
a glass of water please, well, then that flag flashed
on again, backlit and fluttering, and all these people
snapped to attention, hands on hearts in an indivisible
motion, and they started chanting, like, and then the
flag went poof and they went back to seeming normal,
until the flag flashed on again, when once again they
lurched to stiff attention, chanting, and I am standing
there, the only non-robot in the room and talking to
them, like when I said excuse me to that artificial lady
in the Museum Ludwig and I am saying, HEY, it is just
a piece of fabric, it can't control you, use your noggin,
THINK, but then I realized they couldn't hear me,
or maybe they could hear me, but simply couldn't
understand what I was saying because they were only
programmed robots and utterly controlled.