Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "On the Head of a Pin"

This poem came out of the January 7, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] technoshaman. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. This poem belongs to the Steamsmith series, and its sequel is "Invention."

"On the Head of a Pin"
-- a Chant Royal

The challenge reached her at the close of day
As Maryam left from the Steamsmiths' Hall.
She wasn't exactly sure what to say
In front of her mates and the crowds and all.
She looked at the paper and what it said,
And she measured in mind just such a head.
It was a crazy thing to try and do --
But Maryam knew she could; that was true.
As she clutched the letter and looked within
The challenge beckoned from out of the blue:
Build an engine on the head of a pin.

Maryam went to her study to stay
And scribbled her rough drafts upon the wall
Or sketched with her fingers in lumps of clay
The visions that held her mind in their thrall.
She didn't go anywhere near her bed
No matter how the blisters broke and bled.
She taped them over and her fingers flew,
Crossing this out and sketching that anew.
She would make something that never had been --
As strong as a horse, as light as bamboo --
Build an engine on the head of a pin.

Maryam began to see what she may
Need to seek out in a mercantile stall
And calculate what she would have to pay
To gather components, the large and small.
She would have to visit the blacksmith's shed
Or smelt a few metals herself instead.
She'd need to clean out the stove and the flue,
Make sure she had wire, solder, and glue.
She'd best remember to empty the bin
Before she took up the first little screw.
Build an engine on the head of a pin.

Maryam went out on the third of May
To buy supplies she would need to install.
Some of those things came from far, far away
But if her plan worked, she'd have a windfall.
She bought more wire, as fine as a thread,
And plenty of fuel, for what lay ahead.
She searched avenue after avenue,
Basket in hand, and spent hours in queue.
She stoppered her ears against London's din,
Held onto her goods as she shouldered through.
Build an engine on the head of a pin.

As she left the shops in some disarray,
Maryam headed back home with her haul.
Her temper already starting to fray,
She raised her collar against the rainsquall.
Along the flooding streets Maryam fled,
Hoping competitors would be misled.
The raindrops clung to her greatcoat like dew
And the horse's hooves beat a swift tattoo
As she rode in the cab, soaked to the skin.
Still the challenge lay within her purview:
Build an engine on the head of a pin.

Maryam dashed inside as the wind blew,
Sat down at her workbench with her goods too
And took up the task, determined to win,
Focusing only on what must ensue:
Build an engine on the head of a pin.

* * *


The Chant Royal is a poetic form with five stanzas of 11 lines followed by one stanza with 5 lines, using an elaborate rhyme
Tags: crafts, cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, form poem, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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