This poem came out of the July 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from siliconshaman. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It's a sequel to "An Amazing Carriage of Amber and Jade." This poem belongs to The Steamsmith series, which you can explore further on the Serial Poetry page. While doing the research, I looked up Leonardo da Vinci and his inventions, oil paint, the glider, Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Queen Victoria.
Maryam Smith stroked her brown fingers
over the smooth white pages of the book.
It was a biography of Leonardo da Vinci,
one of her favorite alchemists.
As a little girl, Maryam had thought that he
was so far ahead of her, she could never catch up.
It seemed that da Vinci had done everything:
alchemy, anatomy, architecture,
botany, cartography, engineering, geology,
math, music, painting, and sculpting.
He invented all kinds of marvels
and wrote about everything he did,
like a one-man Renaissance all by himself.
The biography reprinted many illustrations
that da Vincy had drawn, some of them
things he succeeded in building,
others that did not see fruition for generations.
His studies with hudor led him to understand
floods and tidal waves, river currents,
and ways of building sturdier bridges.
He designed mills, fulling machines, and engines
all powered by borasco, the Wet fuel.
His studies with ge took him deep into mountains
where he learned to excavate and tunnel safely.
He demonstrated how to lift great weights
with levers and earth-engines.
His alchemical oil paints became the foundation
of Renaissance artwork across Europe,
hermetically sealed in neat little tins
that became the later inspiration
for modern paint tubes.
To be sure, Leonardo da Vinci
had many patrons for his work --
Ludovico Sforza, Cesare Borgia,
even Niccolo Machiavelli himself --
but it was the patronage of two British kings
with deep pockets that allowed him
to construct his most impressive projects.
His war machines included a tank
and a cannon, along with
a clear precursor of the musket,
among the commissions of Henry VII.
Henry VIII, with loftier ideals,
had funded a flight program that yielded
the first ornithopter to lift off the ground (briefly)
and the first helicopter to hover (moderately),
which led to the later invention of skycycles.
Maryam traced over the glider,
one of da Vinci's few fixed-wing designs.
Rumor said that he had built and flown one,
but that was unconfirmed, and given
the skycycles nobody since had bothered.
It looked as if it ought to --
well, not fly, but float in the air
like a resting eagle.
So what if da Vinci had pursued different fields?
He had been fairly good at many of them
and downright brilliant at several.
She always thought of him when
disapproving tutors urged her to specialize --
and her father had said that if she wanted
to follow in da Vinci's footsteps, well,
she could have chosen a worse role model.
Maryam smiled as she placed her miniature of
the Amazing Carriage of Amber and Jade between
models of two different da Vinci flying machines.
Above the miniature she hung a little frame
with a hand-written card of heavy cream paper
saying in a proud swooping hand:
| Dear Alchemist Smith,|
Thank you for the splendid carriage!
We enjoyed it in Our birthday parade.
The sheer informality of the note
was flattering and a bit outrageous.
Maryam wondered how the young queen
had managed to sneak it out past her strict mother.
Patronage could be as important as inspiration.
Maryam might not be a peer of Leonardo da Vinci yet,
but she was gaining on him.
* * *
1) hudor -- the element of Water
2) borasco -- fluid, the Wet fuel; two atoms of hudor (Water) and one of aer (Air). It is derived from a Mediterranean name for a thunderstorm, out of the Greek borrâs or boreas for "north wind."
3) ge -- the elementof Earth
4) skycycle -- an alchemical device similar to a unicycle, with a propeller above it, which allows a rider to fly.