Monk Automaton, c.1560

By Rebecca Morgan Frank


Looking at you now is like
seeing a god or a king
naked and starving in a field.

Stripped of your Damask robe
and wooden limbs,
you’ve been skinned

to the iron spine that stems
your clockworks
to your cracked face.

This is when you
are most mortal.


You could hold him
in both hands, a key-turn

spiriting a clock-work miracle:
each supplicant kneeling

to his absence
of breath, blessed by his cams

and levers, the secrets beneath
his robes. Mea Culpa.

Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa
his poplar jaw drops prayer, shuts

in a wooden-cross kiss
as his right hand beats

the absence of a heart.
He wears the face of St.

Didacus, the tripod wheels
of Hephaistos. Son

of the gods, father of the future, (couplet continues, next page)
the monk almost floats.


Robots can do almost anything you please.

They are up on sexual favors, cordless vacuuming,
and martyring themselves by bomb.

Less effective at deep tissue massage; excellent
at listening to senior citizens. Working on
parking your car.

What the future brings is nothing we haven’t seen,
this quest to be little gods and make
what will do our bidding.

The medieval monk who doled out benedictions
arose from a ruler’s dream
and was then fathered by a clockmaker.

The real monk now sits alone
in the back room, smokes a cigar, enjoys
a glass of whiskey–
he’s outsourced the job.

The real monk is on the dole.

The real monk is waiting in the parking lot
for offers of day labor.

The real monk is unloading boxes at Costco.

The real monk sits in the factory,
building himself by hand.

From Oh You Robot Saints! (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2021). Reprinted with the permission of the author. All rights reserved.