I am programmed to help human beings:
If I see them in difficulty, I must help;
My maker said what I represent
Is smooth machine bureaucracy,
A hidden net of support, for the common people.
I am proud of that. I do my job as best I can
Which is very well: my circuits are faultless
Devised and manufactured by real men;
So, I am authentic as well as useful,
Not a fake copy from the printing factory.
Well, yesterday I saw a human being, sitting on a train,
A newspaper upon his lap, and pen in hand.
He clearly was in pain: he frowned, he scratched his head,
He pursed his lip; crossed out what he had written.
I sought to help, as I had been advised
Was proper to my role. I should say now I am a trusted guard
Collecting tickets for the Southern Rail; a company, so I am told,
Which carries commuters to and from their work.
This human being was doing Sudoku, a game for relaxation
Which also, I believe, demands some concentration
From the gamer. He had not made much progress.
Well, I could not do less: I fed the grid into my circuit board,
Filled in the blanks, projected them to the page.
He should have smiled. He did not. Instead he cursed,
Said “Damn” and worse. I must have dozed off.
Did someone borrow my paper? I must check with my maker –
Did I do something wrong? Impossible! My circuits all prevent it.
Later, on my way home; I have a bedsit like a normal human being
Where other helpers live, and we are overseen; I saw upon the street
A five pence piece. Had someone lost it? That would cause distress.
I picked it up and thought a bit: the police station, that’s the place!
They will restore it to its rightful owner. The constable behind the desk,
When he had asked how he could help, and I gave my reply;
He looked me in the eye with a slight frown: “It is a crime to waste police time,”
He said. “This time I’ll let you off, but don’t come back,”
Perhaps there is some lack in him, or he is one of those
Who do not love their fellow human beings. Perhaps he needs help?
I am not qualified for therapy. My maker says the time is not yet ripe.
But, when I have learned the ways of human beings, a little better,
He says there is hope I could be upgraded. I look forward to that.
In the meantime, my neighbour is a poet,
I thought to have a look at what he wrote.
Poor man! It lacked the elements of proper grammar,
Showed some derangement in the way he thought,
Speaking of moonbeams as translucent stories;
Of course, I put it right, and then destroyed his former manuscript;
I am sure he will be pleased. It is good to be a secret do-gooder,
To do your kindest deeds and seek no praise.
Well, even machines need to rest. But I feel blessed
To have done so much good today; and for no thanks;
Even ingratitude. Yet I am puzzled still –
Those I have helped should be happy – I believe I have done well –
Yet some are not. Perhaps I should learn to programme human beings?
Rob Lowe has been writing for many years. He is a member of Colwyn Bay Writers’ Circle. Poems have been published in The Friend, Shire Magazine, and by Disability Arts Cymru.