Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Where All the Parts Fit Correctly"

This poem is spillover from the October 2, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It also fills the "something useful" square in my 9-2-18 card for the [community profile] ladiesbingo fest, and the "energy" square in my 9-30-18 card for the Fall Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Steamsmith series.

"Where All the Parts Fit Correctly"

Summer sun glinted through
the windows of Maryam's workshop
as Ida Raynott bent over her latest project.

This was a monocle based on the glasses
that she had made for seeing aether.

It was elegant and beautiful,
a construct of glass and gems
and shiny metal fittings.

"Why won't this thing
do what it's supposed to?"
Ida grumbled, poking at it.
"Everything fits together,
but when I try to look
through it -- nothing!"

"Hell is where all the parts
fit correctly, but nothing seems
to work," Maryam said with sympathy.

"This never happens to you,"
Ida said, adjusting a wire.

Maryam laughed. "It happens
to me all the time, my dear.
Integration testing is the bane
of systems development. I
simply don't let that stop me."

"So you think I should keep
fiddling with this thing, even though
I have no idea what's wrong with it?"
Ida said. "I've run out of solutions."

"Then think of things you haven't
tried yet," Maryam suggested.
"What are you trying to do?"

"Adapt my prosthesis so I can
see both light and elements,"
Ida said. "It would be an asset."

"What if those things are
fundamentally incompatible?"
Maryam asked her.

"But they're not," Ida said.
"We can see visible light,
and with the right lenses,
the elements come clear."

"Under some circumstances,
yes," said Maryam. "However,
you're trying to run both of those
through a damaged eye. It might
be too much for your remaining
nerves to handle effectively."

"You think the problem
could be me, instead of
the device," Ida said.

"I think it's a hypothesis
worth exploring," Maryam said.
"You have to consider if it's worth
giving up partial sight in that eye
for visible light in order to gain
the elemental enhancement."

"Oh, it's worth it," Ida said.

So she dismantled the prototype
and redesigned it for elements alone.

It took a while, and a lot of tweaking,
and more than one cracked lens
that had to be replaced, but in time
Ida found something that worked.

She tried it on and grinned.
"I can see!" she exclaimed.
"The elements are clear as day!"

Ida turned in a slow circle,
gazing at all the items in
the alchemical workshop.

Then she wobbled.

Maryam caught her
before she could fall over.
"What's wrong?" she asked.

Ida put one hand on a workbench
and the other on her forehead.

"I'm getting dizzy," she said.
"Everything looks so different.
This new device is giving me
a bloody headache!" Then
she ducked her chin. "Sorry,
I shouldn't have said that."

"I've said plenty worse when
my projects didn't turn out
the way I hoped," Maryam said
with a wave of her hand. "You
don't need to worry about it."

"But now I've wasted all this time,
and more than a few materials,
with nothing to show for it," Ida said.
"I just wanted to make something useful."

"I wouldn't say that," Maryam replied.
"You've discovered a bunch of things
that don't work, so you can rule out those.
I think the problem now may simply be
that your brain doesn't have enough
energy to run a device that complex."

Ida slumped. "Then it's hopeless,"
she said. A moment later, though,
she jerked upright. "Or maybe not!
If I could rig an outside energy source,
then that might solve the problem!"

"It might, and that's worth a try,"
Maryam agreed. "However, right now
you're tired, frustrated, and achy. Let's
go into the parlor and have a nice cup
of chamomile tea. You can come back
and work on this again tomorrow."

"That," said Ida, "is an excellent idea."
Tags: crafts, cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fishbowl, gender studies, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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