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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Drunken Master"

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 MasterSorghum brandy is an alcoholic beverage from China.




The Drunken Master


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.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
alycewilson From: alycewilson Date: April 7th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Awesome!
alycewilson From: alycewilson Date: April 7th, 2012 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
To be more specific, I loved the storytelling and the combining of two genres.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2012 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

It really helps when people can pin down details about why they like something. That's useful targeting information when I'm wondering what I should write more of.

This month's theme really lent itself well to genre blending. I think Kung Fu Robots is quintessentially about the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated ideas -- science fiction and kung fu, humorous vs. serious martial arts, etc. The Edopunk series Lacquerware similarly blends history and science fiction to get a technology with a totally different flavor than usual.
alycewilson From: alycewilson Date: April 7th, 2012 12:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

That's the fun of blending genres. Of course, it helps to use something that other people know well.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

One cool thing about blending is that if you include one widely known aspect, people will usually follow along for that even if the other aspect is totally unfamiliar. Edo period and steampunk, kung fu and robots.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: April 9th, 2012 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm enjoying the kung fu robot series.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 9th, 2012 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm happy to hear that. It seems to be gaining a following.
eseme From: eseme Date: April 11th, 2012 02:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I do like the way each robot is finding its own way, and its own person or people to learn from.

If they ever get back together to exchange notes, oh the collaboration!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 11th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I do like the way each robot is finding its own way, and its own person or people to learn from.<<

Yes, they each seem to be finding their own piece of the truth that resonates the most for them personally.

>>If they ever get back together to exchange notes, oh the collaboration!<<

It will be interesting to see. I'm not sure what they'll all bring to that meeting -- but I know that at least some of them will get back together again eventually.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: March 21st, 2013 12:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I read this when it first came out, and now rereading it during a bad time, it's calming to me. Thanks for the poetry! I'm a sucker for robots-finding-meaning stories...

--Rogan
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 21st, 2013 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I read this when it first came out, and now rereading it during a bad time, it's calming to me.<<

I'm glad it's helpful. If you haven't visited this series recently, it's got some new stuff. "Cricket and the Magic Kung Fu Water" just went up.

>> Thanks for the poetry! I'm a sucker for robots-finding-meaning stories...
--Rogan <<

You're welcome. I'm happy to write that topic anytime; I like robots.
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