This poem is spillover from the April 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a discussion between the_vulture and marina_bonomi following "Dragon Tiger Wind Cloud." It has been sponsored by the_vulture. It belongs to the Kung Fu Robots series. There are references to the "drunken master" style in the Xian Immortals and Ten Tigers of Canton, along with the movie Drunken Master. Sorghum brandy is an alcoholic beverage from China.
The robot found it captivating
that humans could consume alcohol
and become intoxicated, their behavior changing
as if they contracted a virus in their programs.
To the robot, sorghum brandy
was merely an adequate source of fuel
with no further effect than topping up
its clever little engine for an evening.
Finding such fuel was often easier than finding electricity --
humans being quite fond of their intoxicants --
so the modified engine had been a good invention.
The robot frequented taverns,
learning to keep an eye on the other patrons
who sometimes became belligerent as the evening wore on.
It also learned that some of the beggars were good company,
one of whom in particular never caused any trouble
and liked to nurse a single tankard for hours --
drunk enough to get mellow, sober enough to stay canny.
One night, a brawl broke out.
The robot, who knew kung fu,
held its own quite handily for a while.
Nearby the beggar bobbed and weaved
through the roaring fray, leaping high overhead,
somehow never spilling his tankard
while tossing larger men out of his way.
Then someone decided to crack open the robot's engine
to extract whatever sorghum brandy might remain,
and a wooden bench across the chest
knocked the robot sprawling on the floor.
Suddenly the beggar was there,
straddling the robot to take on his attacker.
"Here, hold this," the beggar said,
handing his tankard to the startled man.
He laid the fellow low with a single punch
and caught the tankard as it fell,
still without spilling a drop of his sorghum brandy.
Then he leaned down to scoop up the robot,
carrying it out of the tavern over one shoulder.
"Are you all right?" he asked as he set it down on the curb.
"No," the robot said glumly, gazing at its cracked chestplate.
All the liquor had leaked out, leaving the engine
dangerously low on fuel.
The robot opened an emergency toolkit
and managed to make temporary repairs,
but lacked the energy to get up and seek another tavern.
The beggar just patted the wobbling robot on the shoulder
and said, "Here, you need this more than I do,"
as he handed over the brimming tankard.
"Thank you," the robot said, relishing
the quick surge of energy from the alcohol.
"I'm Beggar So," the man said.
"Who are you?"
"I'm nobody," the robot said.
"I had a designation in the military,
but as I am no longer a soldier, it does not apply."
"Well, you cut quite a caper in there," said Beggar So,
"at least until that big lug hit you with a bench.
I think I'll call you Caper, while I'm teaching you to protect yourself."
With that, he slung an arm around the startled robot's shoulders
and led it away.