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Poem: "The Tommyrocker" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Tommyrocker"

This poem came out of the March 6, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by promtps from aldersprig, marina_bonomi, and siege.  It has been sponsored by janetmiles.  This poem belongs to The Steamsmith series, which you can explore further on the Serial Poetry page.

The Tommyrocker

In Maryam's opinion,
it was the charlady who saved the day.
Had Nora not gone into the nursery
to dust the tommyrocker at just that moment,
the kidnappers would have got clean away.
She had shouted the house down
and then opened a window and yelled for police.
The two kidnappers had abandoned their objective
and fled through the nursery window.

To be sure, some credit must go to the mailman
who saw them running and assumed trouble,
so helpfully pointed the police after them;
and some must go to the police themselves,
who took both kidnappers alive and uncovered the plot,
though regrettably Constable Black was shot dead in the scuffle.

While the latter excitement was going on,
it was Nora who made the truly odd discovery
of the day, for the tommyrocker
had curled itself around its infant charge
so that Miss Lucy was quite unharmed.

That was what ultimately brought the matter
to Maryam's attention,
for William Percy stormed into the lounge
and slapped a newspaper on the table,
ranting about loose-lipped reporters
and slipshod alchemists.

Maryam teased the offending paper out of his grasp
and read the article about the attack on his cousin's home.
"According to this," she said quietly,
"that tommyrocker may have saved Miss Lucy's life."

"That's what it did this time,"
Percy snapped. 
"Next time it could curl up and smother her!"

To be sure, a tommyrocker was not meant to do that.
It was only designed to sit in a rocking chair and cuddle a baby.
Tommies did not generally do anything out of the ordinary,
but every once in a while, something different happened.

A warm weight at Maryam's back coalesced
into Old Henry leaning over to read the article.
"I want that tommyrocker," Maryam muttered.
"Get me the funds," Old Henry replied,
"and I'll make the offer."

It turned out that Nora had also
saved Mrs. Love from the scrap heap,
the man of the house being convinced
that a tommy doing something different
was a tommy doing something dangerous.
Nora was still arguing that some alchemist
was bound to be interested in all this,
when Old Henry arrived with cash in hand.

So it was that Mrs. Love wound up in Maryam's house,
an ordinary-looking tommy shaped like an old woman,
plump and sturdy.  It wore a plain nursery uniform,
its grey wig done up in a bun under a white cap.
Its smooth metal face held a calm smile.

Old Henry and Maryam made a thorough examination
of the tommy, everything they could think of
without deactivating it -- which they did not wish to do,
in case that might destroy the very quirk they sought.
The animating spirit of a tommy
was a thing that alchemists understood,
but not perfectly.  There was always more to discover.
Yet they found nothing remarkable at all in this one.

At last they gave up.  Maryam put the tommyrocker
in her parlor and gave Mrs. Love a doll to tend,
then wrote a letter in Farsi to Aalim and Taysir to see
if they had any ideas why a tommy might behave so oddly.
Although the steamsmith kept an eye out,
Mrs. Love never seemed to do much of note,
except that Farasat liked the tommyrocker quite a lot

and, once,
Maryam saw a metal hand
reach out to stroke his fuzzy head.

* * *


tommyrocker -- an automaton designed to cuddle and rock babies.

charlady -- a skilled servant employed to tend alchemical devices or workspaces.

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Current Mood: busy busy

9 comments or Leave a comment
e_scapism101 From: e_scapism101 Date: October 20th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
This gave me warm fuzzies.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 20th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

That's good to hear.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: October 20th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh. I wonder if the Name of God is inscribed somewhere on the inside of Mrs. Love's exoskeleton.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 21st, 2012 07:50 am (UTC) (Link)


It's possible. Automatons all have an animating spark of spirit, which sometimes does unexpected things.

There are several branches of alchemy in which people are trying to create life or lifelike objects. The homunculus was a traditional goal of alchemy, for example, and it stands to reason that the Jewish golem would correlate. Neither is exactly the same as an automaton but that's not the only version ever made, and sometimes the cultures cross-pollinate. Also I've got Miriam the Prophetess listed as a Jewish alchemist. So if you're curious, this is something that could be explored further, especially if you could find me more Jewish alchemists.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: October 20th, 2012 11:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting. I wonder if Farasat likes other tommyrockers or just this one... I wonder if Farasat likes other automatons... hmm.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 20th, 2012 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)


Cheetahs are sensitive to alchemical energy in general, so they like automatons. This one is just a little extra interesting.
From: technoshaman Date: October 21st, 2012 07:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awww! Love the ending! Moggies do know best... :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 21st, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)


Particularly the ones sensitive to alchemy.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: August 14th, 2019 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

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