Ethan Hon
Winner of the Prospero Prize
Artificial Intelligence
Like other horses.
The received field is digestible
and thorough. You can
only supply so much to this intelligence,
only so many things can be brought into focus,
can be sussed or tossed out.
Your hypothesis, eohippus-like excitement at birth.
A horse bucks outside your lab’s
open window, a draft lifts a curtain.
You laugh at motility, synchronicity.
Shrug it off. And this new machine
with the sense of a horse well
you still call it a machine. It can’t
laugh, it just can’t. Another object
lesson mingling with your first failures:
their stain, out of vogue, simple
but aggressive.
It traces back to coitus
made by distant Edenic ancestors—
even past their initial conception
of void.
Presumably where they clasped
their hands and post-congress said
“this union will not conclude
our story. Last you must hear
the clanging of our iron
feet dangling below knees.
You can’t investigate the worm,
we ruminate in rot. Make the machine
horse.” They handed
your person. I put my palm
in the middle of your back,
press the vertebra,
and feel your laughter escaping up.
I can’t stop listening.
Again the bad model
begetting bad machines: only after
I’ve dropped the spoon
one hundred times
I deduce the spoon will fall on its own aptitude.
You’ve done so well to
bring this monstrosity here.
Now you tuck it under your coat.
It can think running. It can clamor.
It could neigh. Or imagine grazing
through pastures, dropping its shit.
How incredibly unlucky
we are to have it.

A version of this poem first appeared in Tin House.