National Poetry Month Day 17: “The Robot Scientist’s Daughter [brushes with death]” by Jeannine Hall Gailey


Welcome to The Rumpus’s National Poetry Month project. We’ll be running a new poem from a different poet each day for the month of April.

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter [brushes with death]

drowned when she was three.
Her brother was stung to death by wasps.
She died in her sickbed of scarlet fever,
and all her toys and books were burned.

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter has become a specter;
she haunts the Children’s Hospital wards, plays ball
with the children and hangs their bright pictures on the wall.
She is careful with their IV lines, their thin fragile skulls.

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter spent all of college
with pneumonia, coughing on her exam papers.
She haunts the dorms, pulling fire alarms and shuffling
the carefully stacked pages of the study group.

She died during a routine operation, bled to death
on the table. The hospital lacked facilities for tranfusions.
She is a white-faced ghost in an ill-fitting gown,
her feet still in pink slipper socks.

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter is amazed she had made it
this far. So many brushes with death. That German Shepherd
attack in France, when she jumped into a river;
the skittering puddle-jumper lurching over turbulent Kentucky air.

If she is a ghost, she has no memory. She takes photographs
to remember her home. Images dissolve around her; first
she is holding a television remote, a copy of Cosmo,
her mother’s textbooks. The curve of a boy’s neck.

The whisper of the afterlife is nothing but frost
on a window; her secrets will die locked
inside her chest, her bones brittle fragments
spelling out her mistakes. Find her among fossils.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

If you like what the Rumpus is doing for National Poetry Month, you’ll probably like this multimedia anthology of original poems we’ve run at The Rumpus over the last three years. Available only for iPad. Check it out!

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →