What if the submarine
is praying for a way
it can poison the air,
in which some of them have
leaped for a few seconds,
felt its suffocating
rejected buoyancy.
Something floats above their
known world leading a wake
of uncountable death.
What if they organized
into a rebellion?

Now scientists have found
a group of octopuses
who seem to have a sense
of community, who
live in dwellings made of
gathered pebbles and shells,
who cooperate, who
defend an apparent
border. Perhaps they’ll have
a plan for the planet
in a millennium
or two. After we’re gone.

Copyright © 2019 by Marilyn Nelson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Then came the soft animals, the snake
and octopus, slinking along. You’ve seen
the octopus as escape artist, sneaking out
of cracks and holes, hiding in a tea pot,
plotting the big adventure. Now she moves
through chemical reaction, the first soft
robot, taking to the sea. Remember
that the real thing once disassembled
her own aquarium, waiting, bemused,
in the remaining puddle, for her custodian
to come. They say it was simply curiosity.
Now imagine her robot double dismantling
at will. That which we have tried to contain,
swimming off into the deep, re-emerging

like the snake that slithers into your garden;
its trapezoidal kirigami cuts in plastic skin
keep it crawling through bursts of air.
An innocuous slinky in colorful garb,
this robot can sidewind anywhere.
Now ask why everything now harbors
a weapon in your mind—do you dread
the snake under your own bed?
Is it the real tooth and venom you fear,
or this programmed body double here?
We’re told of a fall, a fault built on flesh—
the flesh of a fruit, the flesh of a woman—
now this manmade flesh, a reptilian test
of applied knowledge. Industrial sin

co-starring the latest sensation: a running
cockroach robot, sliding through cracks
to get to you, away from you, through
your walls. Extinction now eradicated,
bought: replacements on order. Enter
“Robotanica”—the world of the wild robot—
woodpecker, dragonfly, kangaroo, child—
unborn, they can all do the job. Two by two,
battery-powered to keep the world moving,
replacing their organic prototypes. Centipedes,
spiders, ants, termites, and robobees, these
are just the beginning of the evolving nation,
as if someone has decided to revise, start over.
This time using human labor, invention.

Copyright © 2019 by Rebecca Morgan Frank. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 29, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

i come from the fire city / fire came and licked up our houses, lapped them up like they were nothing / drank them like the last dribbling water from a concrete fountain / the spigot is too hot to touch with your lips be careful / fire kissed us and laughed / and even now the rust climbs the walls, red ivy / iron fire and the brick blossoms florid / red like stolen lipstick ground down to a small flat earth / stand on any corner of the fire city, look west to death / the red sun eats the bungalows / the fire city children watch with their fingers in their mouths / to savor the flaming hots or hot flamins or hot crunchy curls or hot chips / they open the fire hydrants in the fire city and lay dollar store boats in the gutters / warrior funeral pyres unlit

Copyright © 2017 Eve L. Ewing. “I come from the fire city.” originally appeared in Electric Arches (Haymarket Books, 2017). Used with permission of the author.

 

The moon will shine for God
knows how long.
As if it still matters. As if someone

is trying to recall a dream.
Believe the brain is a cage of light
& rage. When it shuts off,

something else switches on.
There’s no better reason than now
to lock the doors, the windows.

Turn off the sprinklers
& porch light. Save the books
for fire. In darkness,

we learn to read
what moves along the horizon,
across the periphery of a gun scope—

the flicker of shadows,
the rustling of trash in the body
of cities long emptied.

Not a soul lives
in this house &
this house & this

house. Go on, stiffen
the heart, quicken
the blood. To live

in a world of flesh
& teeth, you must
learn to kill

what you love,
& love what can die.
 

Copyright © 2016 by Burlee Vang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.