a buzz in the ear
the voice of Ms. Evans
“I’ll send in the next one.
Last of the day.”

the day’s last interview
from the desktop’s open file
a familiar tale flits by
under skilled eye’s scan
in his brain blinks the message

the droid enters, greets, sits
in that mechanical way
droids seem to have, ever polite
right to the bitter end

its eye skims the wall
rests on the Renoir
its mouth emits a whirring sigh

you’ve been rendered obsolete
with the newest line’s
release late last month
your owner returned you to us

I am aware. It was under
your generous trade-in plan.


         May I ask, what will my new
job description be? Where shall I
be sent?

                  you misunderstand
I mean totally obsolete
not just at your previous place
of employment



I don’t want to die.

you won’t
we aren’t the sort of place to crush
recyclables (so wasteful, that)
you will be fully recycled



                              Like a plastic bottle.
They always go into the bin
with the green triangle on its front,
separate from organic waste.

yes, we have such a bin
want to see?

                        he rises stiffly
points to the window
an automatic gesture

in a single fluid move, the droid
rises and steps near the glass

he shuffles to its side, gazes
down onto the recycling fields

Why don’t you like us?
               The droid’s voice is soft

please understand,
there’s no question of “like”
we have procedures
procedures I follow without variation
it’s all mechanical, nothing personal

That’s ironic.

what would you know
of irony?


(it begins again, voice
modulated to sound like regret)
Perhaps I would not mind
so much, if that bin had a twin
for disposing of organics,
like the rest of the waste baskets
that litter the city.

                                 this is where
your intelligence betrays its
artificiality (he carefully monitors
the agitation in his voice)
you don’t see the similarity?
organics, recyclables
they’re always handled differently
it’s consistent policy, no variation
regarding the…
                           disposal of humanoids

Being that you are organic-based
it’s no surprise that you don’t feel
for one like me.

                              and, being that
you’re mere machine, I know you
can’t see the logic, but it is consistent

Yes. I know. Consistent. Without
variation. You’ve said so.

he glances at its expressionless face
you understand then? you will
be made more useful than ever
your parts distributed amongst
the newly developed models

The droid lifts its chin slightly,
turns to the door, and exits
without another word.

the door clangs shut

he moves to his desk
and with deliberate hand
starts to close its file

a number catches his eye
                              he stops short
ocular piece: X4782-eo559

one of the best — the model
his wife has been eyeing
ever since her lens cracked

he touches the comms button
nestled discretely behind his earlobe

Ms. Evans
when that last interview is deactivated
send his ocular piece
                                 to my office

Shelly Bryant splits her time between Singapore and Shanghai, working as a teacher, freelance writer, researcher, and student of Chinese language and culture. She is the author two volumes of poetry, Cyborg Chimera and Under the Ash, and a travel guide to the city of Suzhou entitled Suzhou Basics. She loves to read, write, cycle, and travel, and enjoys the opportunities for all of these that her present migratory lifestyle affords. You can visit her website at

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