Nick Courtright

Ethics (Awesome Lust)

Beautiful, the cockroach with wires in its brain
steered around the room by a grad student at a university.
It’s not all bad. You could be one of those beetles
they fly around doing military ordnance,
spying on the enemy while having lost
all sense of motor autonomy. Or you could be the live rat
so seemingly smart it runs complex mazes
though it no longer has the mental ability
to put one foot in front of the other, or you could be
the mouflon or the guar, the endangered ruminant bizarrely
born from a foreign parent—like a dog
in a cat’s belly—something so unnatural
we call it progress. Or you could be the monkey
engendered with the bioluminescence of the jellyfish
put there by a man so now under certain kinds of light
you glow in the dark.
                             These things aren’t science fiction,
these things are just science.
These things are the ethics of today
like how in the hallowed annals of brain science

one of the most lauded of accomplishments
was that in which they mapped a monkey’s brain
to determine the brain’s action
in correspondence with an exterior movement,
say, moving an arm, and how now, the monkey merely
has to think of moving its own arm
to move a robotic arm in a room miles away,
thus becoming the first primate in all recorded history
to have three independent, functional arms.
This, too, is the truth of where we’re headed,
a place where monkeys are capable of moving machines
entirely with their minds.
                                  How late it has become, and so full
of all the predictable desires. What makes us human now
is the same as what made us human
before we had the word human. It’s not all bad:
somewhere, a moon reflects off the water, and history’s great
inventions have nothing on a child
taking one small step
toward the precipice.



Nick Courtright is the author of Let There Be Light, due out from Gold Wake Press in early 2014, and Punchline, a 2012 National Poetry Series finalist. His work has appeared in The Southern ReviewBoston Review, and Kenyon Review Online, among numerous others, and a chapbook, Elegy for the Builder’s Wife, is available from Blue Hour Press.  He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Michelle, and sons, William and Samuel.  Feel free to find him at
Nick Courtright