• A Sentimental Delusion

    Mona Van Duyn

    Spring 1964

    “. . . There will perhaps be some men we will
    not love, and some machines to which we will
    become attached. If we find a being which looks
    and behaves like other men and is beyond our
    capacity ever to love, we must say of it that it is
    only a machine. . . . Should we find a machine
    which we can love, we must say of it that it has
    a human nature and human powers. . . . I
    preserve my humanity only so far as I am one
    who is intrinsically able to love whatever can be loved.”
    —Paul Weiss, “Love in a Machine Age”

    When our hands touched, my darling, suddenly I heard
    the ticking of tinny tales, and the only words
    left in the room were ours. I looked, and the hard
    lights of twelve new machines turned on me and stared.
    My friends, my dears, my fellow sufferers
    of pulse and gland were gone. These things shed tears
    in digits, only the randomizer behind their square
    visages made them wander like us, but by wires.

    Then, love, for a moment I was lonely. And I knew that pleasures
    were up to us. We must taste for those lost others,
    consider the rounded world, and kiss among pure
    meters preoccupied with heat and pressure.

    When, coming closer together, we walked in the streets,
    my arm in yours, I heard the noise above my heartbeat
    of a hundred roller-skaters, and when I let
    my eyes turn from your learning look, only great
    steel crates were moving around us. Those strangers in the city
    buzzed through their memory banks for some clues to how we
    stood, and without a click of analogy
    roared by, unprogrammed for such leaning, love’s oddity.

    And then I understood, dear, that we two were the last
    of the sweet speeders, body-snatchers, in a burst
    and rush of joy before dark, before all the rest
    wheel themselves coldly over our inconstant dust.

    My cheek on your cheek, I could never have opened my eyes,
    but I heard the whole globe rattle as it rolled in space,
    its lands and waters stocked with metallic decoys.
    We hold up history single-handed. But it says:
    “Life has economies, and can’t keep long, as guests
    among stiff monsters, two yielding specialists.
    Long before you die, chemistry will have you cast
    from your little community of two kissing beasts.”

    So, love, I am afraid of love. Out of the corner of my eye
    I watch for us to come uncoupled, for the dread day
    when the clinch breaks, we step apart, and are free
    to befriend those back to their humanity

    who look at us now and see a robot pair
    with sensors and effectors clamped together,
    claiming our consciousness with clank and whirr,
    delivering such data to each other,
    that all uncoded comments lose their brightness.
    Watt after watt compels us in our kiss,
    and men, whose soft veins harden, envy us
    our burning circuits, our immortal stress.

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