“The Rote Stuff” by Gary Glauber

Yellow Flowers by Carla Paton, drawing of a robot holding a bouquet of yellow flowers

Image: “Yellow Flowers” by Carla Paton. “The Rote Stuff” was written by Gary Glauber for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2023, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Gary Glauber


Standing at your door with flowers:
one of love’s little rituals …
but a sense of sameness overwhelms.
Over the years such simple acts
have been repeated ad infinitum.
This is how it happened—
simple as a headline—
ROmantic BOy Transformed to ROBOT.
Habit deadens the soul, it seems.
And such rehearsed practices
dull the performance to reflex,
going through the motions
sans the emotions.
Vacant gaze betrays
a heart riddled with heartbreak,
disappointment and unmet expectations:
world-weary but beating on unbeaten
within a sullen crankcase
of mismatched component parts,
clinging yet to the firm belief
that the next attempt may uncover
the true love that has been so elusive,
the one to reverse the robotic curse
and invigorate, resuscitate, the mercy
and grace of a love requited.
Let passion decide it—beyond
the moon/June/spoon of trite cliché.
Let this be the exceptional exception
to end pseudo-love’s long dismay.
Come kismet, come karma,
come soulmate so blessed.
Standing at your door with flowers,
a silent prayer inhabits the breath
that quickens as the door swings open fast—
revealing perhaps what all dreams manifest,
curse into cure at long last.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
September 2023, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the series editor, Megan O’Reilly: “I like the non-literal approach Glauber takes to Alison Bailey’s gorgeous image, the idea of repeated failed attempts at romance as robotic in nature–‘[h]abit deadens the soul,’ the poet writes. Bailey’s sympathetic robot, with its empty but somehow poignantly human ‘eyes,’ is easy to envision as an oft-jilted suitor bracing for one more attempt at love. I also appreciate the touches of repetitive contrast here–‘beating on unbeaten,’ ‘exceptional exception,’ ‘curse into cure,’ and how they reflect the paradoxical way a robot might think, with a superior intellect but also perhaps an inability to understand the nuances of human language. By the end, I found myself rooting for our robot narrator when the fateful door opens to reveal ‘perhaps what all dreams manifest.’”

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