Lament of the Non-Operational

Dalek, n. (1963) a type of evil robot appearing in ‘Doctor Who’, a BBC television science-fiction programme. Its mobile-dustbin appearance and tinny voice intoning ‘Exterminate! Exterminate!’ made it a cult figure in the 1960s and 1970s. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Because no one mourns
the death of a Dalek. Last
EX-TER-MI-NATE terminated.
Grief out of the question when it’s
for space aliens in chill battle
armour. But do try—feel

when that snot-green jelly
flesh is flung like, against canvas,
so much spaghetti sauce—
enormous gun wielded by
swishy WWII-coated hero. As if
the soulless automaton, little

metal bastard ever held vestige of
remorse, reacted when another
of its kind shuffled off this mortal
coil, wondered, stopping, was it all
worth it, every blast, white-hot
X-ray silhouette following. Hitler

would have been so proud. Your
hatred is pure, your eye forget-
about-it blue, your doomsday in
our skies just as ordinary as every
pointless life brought to merciful
end. We’re not so different, you

and me, Dalek—I, too, robotic,
unfeeling at the death of a stranger
on the other side of the city, some-
one shot, knifed, snuffed out with
Desdemona drama. How, indeed,
could soldiers with a single order,

by journey’s end, care. Pre-programmed
for hate. Hacked free from the will to
give a fuck, struck numb by cigarettes,
tires of cars, rainbows pooling, swilling
draughts of sicknesses, silences,
soliloquies—the interlocution of keys.

– Lauren Herrera

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2 Responses to Lament of the Non-Operational

  1. Alexandre Rodallec says:

    On Lauren Herrera:

    I think this poem an example of the freshness that needs to be exposed as the beautiful glory that it is. This poem in its style pays tribute to the old and celebrates the new at the same time. The almost exploding start of lines is the signature of an accelerated style for the impatient reader of the 21st century, a style that deals with that impatient inner eye and ear carefully groomed by fast food culture. Lauren reaches out as to save this reader from abandoning poetry. She is a champion of poetry. And yet, the poem is partially grounded in a classical end-word emphasis tradition which keeps an fan of the classical interested. The science fiction and Shakespeare references also illustrate this new and old. We will surely be seeing more from Lauren.

    If you want to hear more from Lauren, keep your eyes and ears open for readings by the M.F.A.’s in poetry at Calstate Long Beach.

  2. jaguarpress says:

    It’s interesting to see a robot have an identity crisis, but really, that existential conundrum in pointed inwards. Who are we, these creators of exterminating robots, creators of the tools of our own self destruction–the atom bomb, heroin. The form of the poem, which Alexandre discusses, is indeed cyclical–the stanza breaks acting as snubbed out space–much like our conception of life, and this all simply accents the fact that we are pre-programmed for apocalypse. Whether you want to see that as revolution or not, the deeply ingrained violence in our society that is supported by our military-postindustrial must end, less we face the last EX-TER-MI-NATE.

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