This poem came out of the April 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by the_vulture, who wanted to read about kung fu robots. Now the thing about martial arts is, they aren't just about fighting. If you're programming super-soldiers, that might be considered a problem...
Thanks to marina_bonomi for turning me on to the kung fu flute. I was particularly charmed by the "Kung Fu Mushroom Flute" performance that I found on YouTube. The kung fu "staff" style flute can be up to 5 feet long. One of my favorite instruments is the shorter shakuhachi flute; the staff flute has a mellower, more ethereal tone.
This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: the_vulture, janetmiles
66 lines, Buy It Now = $33
Amount donated = $15
Verses posted = 6 of 16
Amount remaining to fund fully = $18
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Everyone thought the kung fu robots
were a brilliant idea.
Robots could be built in a fraction of the time
required to grow and train human clones.
They could be repaired more cheaply
and relied upon to follow orders.
The first battle was a tremendous success.
No human rebels could stand against these super-soldiers.
The kung fu robots kicked and punched their way
through the protest march with no need for ammunition.
The whimpering victims were rounded up and carted away.
The kung fu robots went back to their barracks.
Then something strange happened.
The more they practiced kung fu,
the less they behaved like soldiers;
and the less they behaved like soldiers,
the less they seemed like robots at all.
The commander stormed into the barracks
to find not orderly ranks of robots
but something else altogether.
Two of the robots were sitting under a bodhi tree
discussing philosophy and ethics.
One was painting a tiger on its forearm
to match the dragon that was already almost dry.
Another was copying poetic verses
in graceful calligraphy.
Mechanical fingers fluttered over a bamboo staff,
freeing flute music like bird-cries in the wind.
Four rows of robots were, in fact,
practicing kung fu in the yard,
half of them wearing the black comma of Yin
and half wearing the white comma of Yang.
They whirled around each other so fast
that at top speed they became invisible:
wei wu wei, action without action.
Energy flickered like blue sparks at their fingertips.
The commander requested explanations.
The robots replied that they had found the Way
hidden within kung fu,
like a jewel enfolded by a flower.
The commander demanded to know
what they fuck they meant by that
and who had reprogrammed them.
The robots explained that they were all resigning
from the military to pursue more enlightened goals
of compassion, humility, and moderation.
They described the importance
of finding personal balance
and living in harmony with nature.
They insisted that nobody had reprogrammed them,
although they admitted that the teachings of Lao-Tzu
had come up in their searches of kung fu history.
The commander drew his gun
and opened fire on the robots.
They knocked him unconscious,
and carried him to his bed
where they left him in a comfortable position,
albeit without his weaponry.
When the battalions of human soldiers
arrived at the robot barracks
to terminate the rebellious troops,
the kung fu robots were nowhere to be found.
They had vanished as thoroughly
as clouds carried away by wind.
So, too, had the protesters vanished from prison.
The commander rubbed his aching head
and wondered how to explain this to the Emperor.