The Busker, Broke and Busted2 min read


Shira Lipkin
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I am —
I am —
Oh, just ignore it, catches sometimes,
just a gear in my throat.
Just needs some polishing,
maybe descaling,
it only hurts
when I’m inhaling,
which mostly I don’t have to do.

I was
designed for precision work
slim, interchangeable
various parts,
just not a heart
I was
state of the art
slick golden shiny
covet me, buy me
sweetly admire me

But I am —
I am —
slightly less shiny now —
okay, I’m rusted,
swear I’m not busted,
just need some repairs.

Can’t go on pointe no more
Still I can twirl and plie —
Fully powered, I’ll do it all day —
for now, just an hour
swear I can, swear I can
just a few parts to replace

Don’t go —
I am —
I am —
Terribly useful
Ever so teachable,
I can
if you fix this thing
lodged in my throat, and
I can
fix your computer
your engine, your implant
Really, I’m versatile,
don’t let my appearance fool you.

No, sir —
I am —
I am —
Not that kind of bot!
There are some things that I just won’t do.

…but maybe for you …

You, sir!
You look like an engineer!
Surely you have no fear
of one battered bot.
I am
not really challenging,
just need some balancing,
tinkering, tempering,
few things replaced.
Nothing too pricey.
Nothing too dicey,
my brain is just fine,
just my body’s debased.
Okay, I need some new parts —
mostly the joints,
worn at the knees,
ankles are gone and my hands, sir
just need some fixing —
you just do one,
I’ll take care of the other
really no bother
I’ll pay for myself in time saved, sir,
just power me up and all day, sir,
I’ll work for you.
So much I can do.
With one hand
from you.

I am —
I am —
having some trouble here,
once I was held so dear —
just look me up!
You’ll see me dancing
or maybe weaving,
or welding,
or programming —
I am —
I am —
ever so useful,
I promise,
and only so slightly
out of date.
Don’t even think it, sir,
I’m not disposable —
yes, there’s a newer model —

… yes, she’s an upgrade.

Please, sir,
new isn’t better,
I’m seasoned, experienced
All customizable,
much more affordable.
No, I can’t walk right now —
I tell you, that’s easy to fix.
Not under warranty.
Sir, are you kidding me?
Sir, please don’t go!

I need
just enough power
to get through the month, and I am —
I am —
I’m almost out.
Running on half right now,
could use a laugh right now —
Sir, I tell jokes.
I am —
I am —
I am —
I don’t need much,
don’t even need touch,
just a day in the shop
and I’ll be
as good as I ever was —
please let me show you —
no, I can’t pay.

I’ve been here all day.

I am —
I am —
I am —
sentient, although
I’m not very confident
that you’d agree.
I am —
I am —
I am —


  • Shira Lipkin

    Shira Lipkin has managed to convince Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Stone Telling, Clockwork Phoenix 4, and other otherwise-sensible magazines and anthologies to publish their work; two of their stories have been recognized as Million Writers Award Notable Stories, and they have won the Rhysling Award for best short poem. Their nonfiction has appeared at Salon. They credit luck, glitter eyeliner, and tenacity. They co-edit Liminality, a magazine of speculative poetry, with Mat Joiner. They live in Boston and, in their spare time, fight crime with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. Their cat is bigger than their dog.

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