Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Dichroic"

This poem came out of the May 3, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, [personal profile] lone_cat, [personal profile] chanter_greenie, and [personal profile] technoshaman. It also fills the "learning what you like" square in my 5-1-16 card for the Solo Celebration Bingo fest, and "The Rebel" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: The inside of Shiv's head is always a warning, because that kid is a mess, but this is about as upbeat as he ever gets. The rough bits are just a few reflections on his crappy past, and a little angst over minor challenges because he has so little in the way of coping skills.


Education of any kind made Shiv nervous,
owing to his miserable experiences in
every school he had attended.

Even the prison made him anxious,
because people kept pushing him
to make plans, and Shiv sucked at that.

He never knew when Mr. Howard
would pounce on him with new requests
for worksheets or forms or reading practice
or some other form of torment.

Working with Tolliver and Simon
felt different, though -- Shiv was
almost starting to look forward
to those lessons now, which were
part metallurgy and part smithcraft
and part whatever came up that day.

Shiv was used to the rolling flutter
of metal that was Simon's wheelchair,
but today there was something else
that positively snatched his attention.

"What is it -- oh it's so shiny! --
what have you got in your pocket?"
Shiv said, dancing around Tolliver
on the way to the art room.

"Well, it's not the Ring of Doom,"
Tolliver said dryly.

"What? Oh -- the story about
the dwarves and the gang war,"
Shiv said, nodding.

Tolliver and Simon looked at
each other, then cracked up laughing.
Even Mr. Vanburen laughed so hard
that he had trouble opening the door
to the art room for them.

"What?" Shiv said with a scowl.

"That's just the best description
I've ever heard of The Hobbit,"
Tolliver said, still chuckling.

"So can I see the thing?"
Shiv said, looping back to
the original topic. "What is it?"

He could feel it already,
so bright and slippery
inside Tolliver's pocket,
but Shiv had learned early on
that if he grabbed things without
waiting for permission, Tolliver
would simply get up and leave.

Shiv clenched his hands
behind his back and
made himself wait.

"This is dichroic glass,"
Tolliver said, setting something
on the table between them.

"You may have seen it in
jewelry before, and some places
use it in decorative tiles, like on
fountains," Simon added.

It was a pendant, Shiv realized
as he looked at the thing, made
from black glass with stuff stuck
onto it somehow. The surface
felt lumpy under his fingertips,
streaked with metallic blue and gold.

Feeling his way into it with
his superpower, Shiv discovered
that it actually contained pieces
of glass and metal melted together.

"Wow," he whispered, enchanted.

"Do you think you could duplicate that?"
Tolliver asked, leaning forward.

"With what?" Shiv said. "I don't
have the right materials, and even
if I did, I wouldn't know where to start."

"Mr. Vanburen, please unlock
today's supply kit," Tolliver said.

"I'll help set up a workspace,"
Simon said, trundling over to
the cabinet that held dropcloths
and similar equipment.

Shiv ignored Simon, groping
around the art room in search
of whatever Tolliver had stashed.

"No," Simon said briskly,
snapping his fingers in front
of Shiv's face. "Do not go
hunting around the whole room.
You'll give yourself a headache
and then we'll have to quit early.
Wait a minute for Mr. Vanburen
and Tolli to bring the goodie box."

Shiv sighed and tried to pay attention
to Simon laying out the work area.

The goodie box was absolutely
worth the wait, though. Tolliver
spread out shards of glass and
delicate flakes of metal leaf.

There were little discs that looked
like slices of candy cane, squares of
glass pressed with ripples or dots,
and a few loose jewelry parts.

"Mr. Vanburen is supervising today
because the glass has sharp edges,"
Tolliver explained, "but it's actually
meant to let you practice making
sharp things into round things."

Shiv cocked his head. "How?"

"Glass likes to 'slump' into
little round puddles," Tolliver said,
pointing to the pendant. "See how
this started out as sharp pieces,
but melted smooth in the kiln?
I'm betting you can do something
similar to this without heat."

"Maybe ..." Shiv said. He could
easily pick up the glass shards,
but the metal leaf kept slipping
out of his grip. "This is hard."

"I thought that might happen,"
Tolliver said, handing him a brush.
"I brought gilder's tips, just in case.
Try picking up the leaf with this."

Shiv discovered that if he touched
the tip of the brush to the leaf,
it would stick, and he could
put it onto the glass.

"There are adhesives, too,
if you want something to hold
everything in place before you
use your superpower," Simon said.
"We weren't sure if you'd prefer
building it one layer at a time,
or sealing it all at once."

Simon and Tolliver were
amazingly helpful as teachers,
happy to read the instructions aloud
while Shiv tried to fit things together on
the table, or lend a hand if he needed one.

So Shiv experimented with
the bits of glass and metal leaf
so thin that he couldn't grip it,
until he had something he liked.

Then he pressed everything
together with his superpower,
making the surfaces bristle and
splinter so that they could be
squashed into each other
and sealed into one lump.

It turned into a squarish blob
made from nine tiny squares of
blue metallic glass sandwiched
between a layer of clear and
a layer of opaque black.

"I did it!" Shiv crowed.

"I knew you could,"
Simon and Tolliver chorused.

Shiv grabbed a piece of
royal blue glass and sprinkled
the top with glossy shards.

"Wait, those two don't --"
Tolliver began, holding up a hand.

Shiv stuck the shards together
and displayed the result.

" -- go together, the coefficients
are different," Tolliver finished.
"How did you even."

Shiv smirked at him. "Superpowers."

"Would you look at that,"
Simon breathed, pointing at it.

In the palm of Shiv's hand,
the cool glass glimmered
with light of its own.

The iridescent strips glowed
like moonlight through icy clouds,
and each air bubble inside the glass
shone like a tiny, captive star.

"Is it just me, or does that
look like a flash badge?"
Tolliver said, his eyebrows
climbing toward his hairline.

Hastily Shiv put it down
on the leather-draped table.

He wanted nothing to do
with flash badges. Those
caused trouble of a type
which he did not enjoy.

The light went out.

"That's beautiful work, Shiv,"
said Tolliver as he swept the piece
into his hand and pocketed it.
"For safety's sake, though, I
think we should stash this
somewhere that doesn't
have your name on it."

Shiv nodded vigorously.
"Yes, please," he said.

He gave Mr. Vanburen
a nervous glance.

"Don't worry about me,"
the guard said quietly.
"I'm just here to monitor
the safety regulations. Seems
to me you're being real careful
with the sharp stuff. That's
good enough for me."

Simon solemnly nodded
approval of his discretion.

"In case you're curious,
glass with zetetic reactions
like that is called 'tesora' glass --
it's Italian for 'treasure' -- and it's
quite valuable," Tolliver said. "Dichroic
means 'two-colored' just for comparison."

"So what's next?" Shiv asked eagerly,
turning back to face Tolliver.

"I don't know, kid,"
the older man said as he
spread his hands. "This is
as far as I've gone when it
comes to glass work -- I took
a class in it once, so I know
the basics, but I had to ask
a friend what to bring today."

Shiv's stomach dropped.
"But then -- how am I
supposed to learn more?"

"Well, that's up to you,"
Simon said. "You might
experiment on your own.
You might see about getting
a teacher who works glass.
Probably the former, since you
are doing it with superpowers
instead of a kiln or a torch."

That sparked a light in Shiv's mind,
as brilliant as the glow of the tesora glass
before Tolliver had put it in his pocket.

They weren't pushing or pulling him.
They were letting him decide what
he wanted to learn and how.

Thinking about his future was suddenly as
exciting -- and stomach-flipping -- as riding on
a roller-coaster. Shiv wasn't sure whether he
wanted more to clutch the safety rail or
throw his hands high in the air.
Or throw up.

But the light.
The light of it,
showing him things
that he'd never imagined.

Showing him how all this could be his.

Maybe this was what Dr. G had been
trying to explain in words, except that
Shiv didn't think very well in words,
so it hadn't made much sense him.
But now it was starting to.

Shiv picked up the sample pendant
that Tolliver had set out for him, tilting
it to see how the glass threw off
different shades as it moved.

He thought about how Dr. G
and Simon and Tolliver kept
telling him that he could be
a supervillain if he wanted to,
but he didn't have to be, and
even if he chose to, that wasn't
necessarily all there was to him.

There in his mind, like the light
glinting through layers of glass
and leaf-thin metal, was the idea
that he could be a supervillain
and something else as well.

That liking to draw was
not hopelessly at odds with
liking to make sharp things.

That he could be himself,
without having to cut off any
of the pieces that "didn't fit."

That he could have,
as Dr. G kept insisting,
a career and a hobby.

That maybe he could be,
like the glass which changed
colors depending on how you
looked at it, a different person
depending on who he was with
and how they treated him. Dichroic.

Something blue and silver and splendid,
something beautiful as long as you
were careful with it but that would
cut you if you weren't.

And it wasn't a thing that
he could just come out and say,
but maybe it was something
that he could show.

So Shiv took a piece of
blue dichroic glass and
sprinkled it with star-shaped
flakes of silver leaf, then added
a metal loop at the top for hanging.

It came out not-quite-perfect,
with a big bubble overlapping
one of the stars, but that was
okay: Shiv wasn't perfect either,
and he was still learning.

"For you to keep," he said,
pushing it toward Tolliver.

"Now that's a handsome gift,"
Simon said, admiring it as
Tolliver strung it on one of
the cords that had come
with the kit and put it
around his neck.

"Thank you," Tolliver said.

Shiv was tempted to keep going,
but he was getting that feeling
like the skin on his forehead
had been stretched too far.

"I think I'd better stop while
I'm ahead," he said reluctantly.

"Forty-five minutes," Mr. Vanburen said,
glancing at the clock in the art room.
"You've got another fifteen if you want."

"Don't push him," Tolliver said.
"You'll get us all in trouble
with Graham and Dr. Bloch."

"Perhaps a different activity
would help," Simon suggested.

He was good at finding different ways
of doing things, Shiv had discovered.

"I've got some nice articles about
dichroic glass," said Tolliver.
"I could read those aloud."

"Yeah," Shiv said.

So he leaned back in his chair
and let the words lap over him,
without trying too hard to hold
onto them, and just enjoyed it.

He was a rebel, but maybe he
wasn't as much of a loner
as he had thought.

Learning things was totally different
when he could choose what to do,
and stop before he got a headache,
without people pestering him about it.

Shiv began to think he might actually like it.

* * *


Educational trauma includes everything from bullying to post-scholastic stress disorder, variations on PTSD or PDSD. Although Shiv refuses to sit still for official testing, it's pretty obvious that he has a raging case of this, given the way he freaks out over anything remotely related to education.

The Hobbit is a famous fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Ring of Doom first appears in "Riddles in the Dark" and Shiv's gang war is in "Battle of Five Armies."

Dichroic glass is designed to show two or more colors based on a special coating. It changes color between transmitted and reflected light. It often features inclusions of metal. Here is an example of dichroic-coated copper foil, and this is dichroic silver. Plain copper changes color when merged with some types of glass. You can also buy the foil in patterns, such as stars. Learn about glass fusing and dichroic basics.

Fusing supplies come in a wide variety. This grid shows the interaction between different colors and patterns of dichroic glass. Here's a sampler of rectangles, some in colors and some clear. Squares are often sold in sets. Scrap glass comes in random shards. This is a beginner kit.

See a fountain made with dichroic glass tiles.

This pendant was made from glass shards.

Millefiori are multicolored shapes made by fusing several glass rods together, then slicing off discs which show a design. They may be sold by dominant color or assortment.

Gilder's tips are special brushes used to handle metal leaf. Shiv can handle sharp things, but leaf is too thin and soft for him to grip reliably, at least at the moment.

This cabochon was made by fusing nine tiny squares on top of one larger square.

This octagonal cabochon was made by piling random shards together.

Tesora glass, which means "treasure glass," is dichroic glass that has been made with superpowers. While it can turn out as ordinary but vivid glass, it often falls into the gizmotronic or even super-gizmotronic range with more spectacular coloration or even the ability to respond to super energies.

A flash badge is a small fabric patch made of dexflan and embroidered with capery, so that it responds to the presence of superpowers. The purpose is to reveal when powers are being used by, on, or near the wearer. Simpler retro-engineered models only have an on/off mode, and aren't very useful. Fancier gizmotronic ones may distinguish between the wearer's talent and someone else's, or not respond to the wearer but only to other soups. The most elaborate super-gizmotronic ones can identify what the power is within broad categories; i.e. a different part of the badge will light up for empathic, telekinetic, or illusionary powers. There are various models, all useful for distinguishing soups from naries.

This is the star pendant that Shiv makes for Tolli, using silver leaf stars on a blue background.

Knowing when to stop is a vital part of self-discipline, artwork, and avoiding burnout. Slowly but surely, Shiv is learning.
Tags: crafts, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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