“How Not to Be a Robot Scientist’s Daughter”

Stay away from Nevada, New Mexico, Hanford, Oak Ridge.  From remote areas with good water circulation away from prying eyes.

Never go looking in your father’s closets. In the basement. In the laboratory. Don’t open, don’t spin, don’t adjust the settings. Don’t touch the box marked “U.”

When you finish your first computer class at seven, don’t wave your certificate proudly. Don’t beg for your mother not to leave your father. Don’t cry in the car holding your heavy disc in your fist.

Don’t fall in love with the flowers – they are transient. You do not realize it now. Every hour you spend with them is wasted.

Don’t trust the green screen, the blue glow. Never let your fingers learn the keyboard by heart.

Don’t spend hours at Radio Shack, picking out gifts your father wants you to have – a build-your-own-radio kit, a robotic car, one tiny machine after another. He will give away your robotic toys. When you ask to whom, he will say “kids who needed them more than you.”

When you grow up, don’t emulate your father’s tethered temper, your mother’s quickness with figures. Don’t try to fuse their troubled tensions, his lack of words, her impatience with broken circuitry.

When you are the robot scientist’s daughter, they open you up and find a mass of wires instead of a heart, reveal your neural networks as nothing but artificial intelligence, but this surprises no one. Don’t reveal your bionic nature.


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Jeannine Hall Gailey

About Jeannine Hall Gailey

Jeannine Hall Gailey's first book of poetry, Becoming the Villainess (2006), was published by Steel Toe Books. Poems from the book were featured on NPR's The Writer's Almanac and on Verse Daily; two were included in 2007'sThe Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Columbia Poetry Review, and Ninth Letter. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review and currently teaches at the M.F.A. program at National University.