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

This poem came from the June 5, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from morrigans_eve.  It was sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  Explore the history of Damascus steel.  Oh, and for fans of haikujaguar, this is the metal used in the swords for House Laisrathera.


Damascus Steel


It was not purity but impurity
that lent strength to these swords,
ingots of iron with carbon
traced in tungsten and vanadium.

Folds upon folds ran through each blade,
rivers of darkness and light
shimmering like moonbeams on water.

Stronger and sharper than plain steel,
these edges bent without breaking,
cut without dulling.

Say that history found and lost a treasure,
say that Greece and Syria exchanged hidden wisdoms,
say that the broken god of the forge came down
and showed men how to make something imperfect
that outperformed anything perfect.

Say what you will, but remember,
once there was steel finer than silk fabric
and all the science of our latter days
cannot uncover its making,
only let us marvel at the tiny features
that enclose its secrets like so many walls.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: June 8th, 2012 07:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
A book, I note, that has been in a Major Publisher's slush pile... for almost two years now.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 8th, 2012 09:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Alas!

I loved that book. As well as you're doing with crowdfunding these days, maybe you should just ask your audience if they want to buy it. I suspect it would do well as an e-book; romance is a popular genre.
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: June 8th, 2012 10:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes indeed. I will give them another three months, and if I haven't heard anything by then I am going to do it myself. I have lost two years worth of income on this gamble, and that makes doing anything with major publishers again unfeasible. The business side of my writing is a business. :,
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 8th, 2012 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Publishers need to learn that if they are not doing their job, writers will fire them. And more readers are leaning that way too. Crowdfunding is one of the places where capitalism actually works pretty well. It's nice to see competition across different business models shaking things up in the publishing industry.

This is why I've put more and more effort into poetry: it's selling. I can write a gazillion different things. So whatever people want to buy, I'm likely to write more of. Everybody wins.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: June 8th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay! I love the modern versions of Damascus steel, too, which are more closely related to Japanese swordmaking techniques. We have some kitchen knives...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 8th, 2012 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I really want to get some of the modern stuff but haven't been able to afford it. Ideally: a double-sided dagger with a wooden or antler hilt for ceremonial use. But I wouldn't turn up my nose at a pocket knife.
acelightning From: acelightning Date: June 10th, 2012 07:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

A number of years ago, I bought a double-edged Damascus "boot dagger" blade (from Atlanta Cutlery - they were on sale), and some purpleheart wood for the handle, to make a ceremonial knife. But just then a financial disaster and the associated eviction-speed move derailed the project. Coming here via mdlbear, and reading about Damascus steel, reminded me, and the box turned up as if it wanted to be found. (I still need to find a cross-guard I like, so this may have to wait even longer until I can afford to shop some more.)

Damascus steel is marvelous for ritual use - it's almost as if the layers of metallurgically different iron act as a "capacitor" for accumulating magick. And it tickles my fancy that Damascus steel (as well as the Japanese equivalent) is made with the same fundamental technique as puff pastry.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 10th, 2012 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

>> number of years ago, I bought a double-edged Damascus "boot dagger" blade (from Atlanta Cutlery - they were on sale), and some purpleheart wood for the handle, to make a ceremonial knife.<<

That sounds lovely.

>>Coming here via mdlbear, and reading about Damascus steel, reminded me, and the box turned up as if it wanted to be found. <<

The universe does love synchronicity.

>>Damascus steel is marvelous for ritual use - it's almost as if the layers of metallurgically different iron act as a "capacitor" for accumulating magick.<<

I've always thought so. It's wonderful for the flow of energies.

>> And it tickles my fancy that Damascus steel (as well as the Japanese equivalent) is made with the same fundamental technique as puff pastry.<<

*chuckle* Well, God wrote the universe in about three lines of code. The delta of veins in a single leaf is the same pattern as the delta of a river. Pastry, swords, the Grand Canyon -- those are all pressed layers. And that's magic, if you know how to connect them.
acelightning From: acelightning Date: June 10th, 2012 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Atlanta Cutlery has gone downhill from what it was when I bought that blade. It used to be that every RenFaire fan, every military re-enactor, every wannabe weapon collector, bought stuff from Atlanta Cutlery and/or their costuming division. *sigh* It's the economy, of course.

I know I found the knife parts easily because it's time for me to start doing such things again. I've been complaining that I've become too mired in mundanity, and I crave more magick - there's my answer. The Universe only has to whack me with the ClueBat of Obviousness six or seven times before I get the message...

Well, the layers of rock in a canyon wall didn't get folded up and rolled/pounded back out repeatedly, to produce a myriad of very thin layers. But the gentler folds and ripples have other stories to tell about how Mother Gaia changes herself. And pastry and sword-steel both embody the concept of dynamically combining disparate qualities to produce something that is more than the simple sum of its parts.

(Now to start figuring out where to get the rest of the parts I need... and bake some croissants...)

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 15th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

>>I know I found the knife parts easily because it's time for me to start doing such things again. I've been complaining that I've become too mired in mundanity, and I crave more magick - there's my answer. <<

That's good to know.

>>Well, the layers of rock in a canyon wall didn't get folded up and rolled/pounded back out repeatedly, to produce a myriad of very thin layers.<<

Not in the Grand Canyon, but there are places where stone layers have been folded, pressed, refolded, etc. It makes for some interesting patterns in metamorphic rock.
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: June 12th, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that's nice! Lovely!!
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