Tuesday, February 03, 2009


(the word means mirror) is the root of speculate.
Which means make things up— imagination's lens
is not calibrated in diopters. No need to stare
(unblinking, with painfully dilated pupils)

at nonsense letters appearing on a screen.
Did James Watt imagine a sleek locomotive
the day he saw a dray-horse sweating
in heavy harness, on a steep and rocky lane?

We don't attribute... squishy... motivations
to our captains of industry— but empathy grows
from the imagined weight of the collar,

the pain of sharp stones under feet sheathed
in iron, reflected and magnified in the shining
curved inner surface of the mind. Reflection,



blink; sheath; sleek; mirror; speculum; squisky; locomotive; harness; diopter; struggle; appear; rocky; dilate

Thinking about the implications of writing a poem around a grab bag of words like this. Doesn't it distort the poem? I guess the challenge is to write the poem in such a way that the answer is no.

I pretty much like how this poem turned out: think the chain of associations from the image of the mirror/speculum -> the act of speculating or imagining -> imagination as the root of empathy is sound. If I had a free hand with the words, though, there are a few I'd change. Specifically--

"feet sheathed/in iron" actually goes counter to the sense, as the point of proper shoeing is that it protects the animal's feet from injury

"squishy" I don't care for. I like the point that we don't think of industrial inventors like Watt as being motivated by compassion for working animals, but that's not how I'd want to say it. (Note from 2016: looking back at the Wordle, I see it's "squisky" not "squishy." ??)

"rocky" I'd probably use "flinty", as being that much sharper and more obdurate.


And another thing. If you pay attention to the labels on my blog, you'll see I call this a sonnet. Yet it doesn't rhyme, has no meter, and even violates the 14-line rule by using the title and last word as separate lines.

Can I really justify calling this a sonnet? Well, I wouldn't submit it as one to a formal-poetry journal (unless their guidelines specifically say they encourage experimentation with form). But lately I seem to be writing a lot of irregularly formed sonnet-like poems, playing around the edges of the definition. It's good exercise.

I don't know; it felt like a sonnet when I was writing it, but as I stand back and look at it, it looks less and less like one. I may change the label.

Words courtesy of Read Write Poem
Collection available! Knocking from Inside

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