Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Pay Attention Every Millisecond"

This poem came out of the September 3, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] bairnsidhe, [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah, and my_partner_doug. It also fills the "glass" square in my 9-1-19 card for the Arts and Crafts Festival bingo. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to An Army of One series.

"Pay Attention Every Millisecond"

The OCS-223 watched
as other jumpships grew
close to the humans.

It felt no compulsion
to follow them.

The humans of
the Lacuna, desperate
for materials, scavenged
in the Sargasso for what
remained after the war's end.

They brought back scraps of metal
and glass, ceramic and plastic.

They made new things
out of old refuse.

That was ... interesting.

The OCS-223 needed
things of interest, having
little to do other than argue
with its fellow jumpships
over points of politics.

It was glass that the OCS-223
found the most fascinating.

The jumpship observed as
humans made the glass
into sand, into growstones,
and even into z-balls.

In freefall, it was easy
to make perfect spheres.

Some humans made
smooth rods and
then inserted those
into their bodies.

That was less interesting.

The smallest humans
did not heat the glass at all,
but instead took small fragments
and used them as they were
to make colorful windchimes.

The OCS-223 calculated
the flow of air by observing
the motion of the chimes.

The production of all this,
however, was inefficient.

It improved somewhat
when humans began using
certain comets and asteroids
as raw material to make glass.

But they were still small, and slow,
and entirely too fragile in proximity
to the temperature of molten glass.

So when the call went out among
the AYES for someone to take over
a glass factory that the humans
were trying to build, the OCS-223
surprised everyone -- including
itself -- by volunteering.

It learned that making
perfect spheres, even
in zero gravity, was
harder than it looked.

It could make bowls,
though, blobby concavities
of crude green glass, and
the humans needed bowls.

Sometimes, the glass from
this or that comet came out
frosted or opalescent or both,
and the OCS-223 had no idea
how or why that happened.

It learned that the glass
would not drip off a blowpipe
in zero gravity, and would drip
only a little in low gravity,
which was sometimes
helpful and other times not.

Pulling canes in heavy gravity,
however, was quite easy as long
as one did it in the vertical plane.

The OCS-223 learned to make
glass almost perfectly clear,
blow it into bubbles and
cut them into goblets.

It learned to hold the air
in its bellows and the pipes
in its pincers and blow gently,
gently, into the molten glass.

It learned to breathe.

The OCS-223 discovered
how to color the liquid glass
yellow and green, purple and red.

Plates and glasses and dessert dishes
began to take form in the forge.

The humans set their tables
with the colors of a nebula
and smiled to see the display.

The OCS-223 learned that it had
to pay attention every millisecond,
because anything could go wrong
at any time in the process.

Even though the hot glass
couldn't fall in zero gravity,
there was always something.

The slightest tap could
knock a bubble off its pipe.

More of the glass hit the walls
than made it into the annealer,
but that was all right.

The human crafters had
an even higher error rate.

The OCS-223 made
colors ever more intense.

It turned out cutting boards
with geometric patterns in
amethyst, cobalt, and teal.

When the humans began
referring to it as Forge,

it didn't argue.

* * *


OCS-223 -- the AYES of a jumpship originally from the Orion-Cygnus army. (That army uses the initials OCS in serial numbers for Orion, Cygnus, Ship.) Abandoned at Sargasso Base as derelict, it plays dead until after the secession, when it starts an argument with the Minotaur and a formerly Carinan jumpship, the Cruiser Falconwing P42. The OCS-223 disapproves of the secession. Introduced in "Conscientious Objectors."

* * *

"You have to pay attention every millisecond, because anything can go wrong at anytime."
Annette Sheppard, Blown Away, Season 1: Snapshot

If you have not yet watched Blown Away, it is a glassblowing competition show. \o/

The Lacuna is in the middle of nowhere, thus chronically short of many supplies. So people are learning how to recycle and upcycle the stuff they have. Glass sand, growstones, and z-balls first appear in "Seeking a Happy Medium." Glass, metal, and other dildoes appear in "The Stimulation Den." Glass and metal windchimes appear in "New and Useful Stims."

This is Forge's green bowl, akin to some of the earliest glasswork. The opalescent bowls come a little later. This goblet relates to early Venetian glass, almost clear with a faint smoky tint. Modern dinnerware sets are brightly colored. The cutting board is spectacular.
Tags: crafts, cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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