LEAF DAY 2022
The rain, Eliot’s smoke in another world,
Sticks to the window panes, pernicious and
Poisonous, carried here by a cold wind
From the south, where last week it brought
Unseasonably warm weather with a hint
Of summer from Crete and the other places
Only dreams carry.
A shower of leaves steals into the garden
With the rising storm, but I can’t catch
Any of the luck bringers from the sky,
Withdraw into the warmth of the house
With empty hands and a shiver of regret,
To recall a legend an old woman told me
Of how catching a leaf in flight repairs
All broken hearts.
The morning half done, I walk down the
Broad street towards my fourth injection
To guard me from the virus of human
Intervention in the natural order of things,
Walk against the wind, against the rain,
Against the fumes and their traffic, pull
Off my coat and jumpers and shirt,
Proffer my arm to the needle, and head
Home again, my face wet.
On this way back, I stand under the huge
Trees, clock stopped, eyes fixed on the
Branches above me, and the birds finding
Miraculous paths between them, ignore
The noise, focus on the multitudes of leaves
On this leaf day this year, when they all
Descend, and am about to give up, turn
Away and start the watch again, when one
Oak leaf soars down from that great height,
Swirls through the gusts, further and further
From my outstretched arm, until I take the
Catch, one-handed, in my left hand, down low
Two feet from the muddied ground, and feel
Myself breathe easier.
R, 15/11/2022, 19:37
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 249
What would be flesh on a human body is an amalgamation of plastic, silicone, pressured lines, hydraulics, and an indefineable mass that makes the muscles. As Aggie slices open the robot with as much respect as possible, she still can’t help admiring this creation of genius, this almost-human thing, so far ahead of all the artificial intelligence and robots that regularly come onto public display, especially at Christmas, when everyone seems to think that articial servants which can barely stand must be what everyone, young, middle-aged, and old, wants. If nly they knew, she thinks, they’d be frightened, not enthusiastic.
Aggie works quickly, wants to get this over and done with now, wants to leave the poor mechanised cadaver here, alone, to await whatever fate is in store for him. Another miscalculation by Valentine, she thinks, to allow this eloquent piece of engineering to be discovered by the public. Or perhaps not, because they won’t be able to understand it anyway, won’t understand what she’ll leave behind of the sophisticated body, once she has the network out and stashed in her backpack, if she’s able to fit it in. And as she works towards excavating this unbelievably fragile and at the same time rugged neural network (because that’s what it is, in essence and in reality), she realises how brilliant an invention it really is, because she will be able to roll it up into one small ball, like Eliot’s universe. Even the heart is a compact and refined solid state device that will fit into her bag.
Done, she cleans the room as well as she can. She can do nothing about the body, so just leaves it on the bed, only slight traces of red around it. She strokes his face, closes his eyes gently, as if he were human. In the bathroom, she washes the filaments and heart of the blood that still clings to them. There’s no fear of her damaging it with the fluid. If it were that sensitive, it would never have worked in the dead robot in the first place. She has checked it all for tracking devices, and her internal monitors have detected nothing. She blinks when she looks at herself in the bathroom mirror, makes sure she has not a single speck of blood on her skin, on her clothes on her shoes. She wraps the wires around the heart, and puts them into a clean towel which she wraps around them in turn, then stashes it all safely in her back pack. One look at her watch tells her almost three hours have passed since they walked into the hotel. She wipes down all the surfaces with another towel, throws it onto the bed, takes one last look around the room, sure she isn’t leaving anything behind that could identify her, relaxed about any CCTV in Reception, because she’s disguised with the wrong hair colour and by her gait of invisibility. And it’s that gait she uses now, again, as she walks to the lift, then out into Reception, and out of the tall glass doors back across to the terminal building where she disappears into the crowds on the escalators down to the Tube station.