SF Poetry: In Search of the Inventor

In 2004, before I’d written my first serious SF story, I was a member of an online writing community that critiqued poetry as well as prose. My particular fascination was with narrative rhyming verse–an all-but-obsolete form nowadays (shame)–and I managed to find a few fellow bards willing to collaborate. Yes, we exist…out there, somewhere.

One of these was Sally Odgers, the most published author in Tasmania. Our shared passions for retro-Victorian/Edwardian verse and time travel finally came to a head when we embarked on Odysseys of Time Travel, a collection we co-wrote (alternating poems) on and off for the next couple of years, trying to out-do each other with poetic stunts.

We got pretty good at turning SF somersaults into creative black holes.

As eccentric and unpublishable as some of them were, our pieces had the distinction of being utterly unique in form and content. Crazy rhythms, playful rhymes, sometimes told in reverse and back again, they explored time and time travel every which way. I don’t think I’ve ever been more creative in my life.

Even if nothing ever comes of our Odysseys in verse, those SF ideas will never go away. I’ve already turned several of them into published stories, and there’s plenty of inspiration left. Here’s one of the more linear, intricately-rhymed poems from that collection. I wrote this one.

IN SEARCH OF THE INVENTOR

In hazy rays of lazy days –
The sun-dial’s sparkling geode phase –
Monsieur Pierre Demorier
Reclined to marinate
In melting streams of suntan cream
To lie all day and glisten, gleam –
A bronzing poisson sur le quai,
A professeur sedate.

When in the surf, at Tempus’ berth,
A copper sphere impressed the earth,
Monsieur Pierre Demorier
Was bared with naked shock;
For tides of fate collided late
Upon that wharf and summer date,
As sunshine glittered ocean spray
Upon the docking clock.

‘Twas sold right there to old Pierre,
Without a spore of air to spare –
The world would speak Demorier
As sure as H.G. Wells.
By buoys and boat deployed to float
He sailed it to his castle moat,
And there his science had its way
As sure as time propels.

Inspecting gears, dissecting years
With skills of fifty engineers,
Monsieur Pierre Demorier
Consigned himself to solve
The ins-and-outs, the whereabouts –
Dispelling all his learned doubts –
Of time and what it must obey
To make a sphere dissolve.

His findings showed the windings owed
A deal to Nature’s hidden code –
Professor P. Demorier
Had mapped the Temporal Law!
Indicted fate’s exicted state
Convinced Pierre he could not wait –
Promontories of future lay
That risk alone could thaw.

His notes at hand, he sought to land –
To shake the maker’s gifted hand –
La sphere de P. Demorier
Beyond the world we know.
The lever dropped and never stopped
As cities, woods and peaks were cropped
By time, who sculpted France, as clay,
An archipelago!

Until, with skill, he brought it still
Upon a scorched and scolded hill;
Monsieur Pierre Demorier
Was anxious as a fox,
For down below ran to and fro –
To flee this rolling copper foe –
All natives, garbed in feathered grey,
From coop to sheltered rocks.

“I come in peace (and pieces too!),
So kindly tell if this is true,”
Monsieur Pierre Demorier
Began, from head o’er heels.
“Has science set in motion yet
This great invention I abet?
And was it near or far away –
This spin of temporal wheels?”

Their longest gawps and strongest yawps
Relieved Pierre of any hopes;
The words of old Demorier
Had clattered on deaf ears.
He saw the date and guessed his fate
Had little yet to sell or sate:
“Two hundred thousand years away
And still no sign appears!”

He likewise spent that increment
In time again to track the scent;
Monsieur Pierre Demorier –
The hound that hounded time.
The isle now rocked; the dial now shocked;
“What storm could time and tide concoct?”
By wind was whipped a fizzing spray
Across the graded lime.

His mind entrenched, his muscles clenched,
He walked into a city, drenched –
Monsieur Pierre Demorier
In domes of violet tin.
This metal sheen, a huge machine?
Was storeys high, serene and clean –
The were no signs of time’s decay
Or even life within.

Yet, miles inside his smile slipped wide –
The secret could no longer hide.
Monsieur Pierre Demorier –
A polyglot – read this:
‘For those who yearn to quickly learn
Of time and travel, rightly turn
To find the antique dossier
And sweetly reminisce.’

On finding it, his mind was split
And pores of time began to spit;
His quick ascent to fell dismay
Was wryly writ by fate.
‘He rose from woe in old Bordeaux
Two hundred thousand years ago
His great invention paved the way
For peace to procreate.’

Which temporal bane did he attain
For which he’d toiled to ascertain?
The clouded ink of disarray
Was in the dossier.
‘These notes on time he wrote to prime
The world for countless years sublime –
Read time machine and with it say
*PIERRE DEMORIER!’

 

*In case you didn’t quite puzzle out the twist…In searching for the inventor, he became the inventor…when he mislaid his notes half way through his journey.

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6 comments

  1. You, sir, are an astonishing geek. And this is a delightful poem. So many clever lines! Narrative rhyming verse, huh? I’m a huge fan of John Cooper Clarke – punk rock poet. I’d say his stuff counts as narrative rhyming verse.

    1. “You, sir, are an astonishing geek.”

      ROFL! And yep, guilty as charged. I really miss poetry–it’s the most intense kind of creative writing. If there was any sort of market for it, I’d still be doing it. But prose is def better for my geek sanity–I can get paid for that.

      Thanks, Diane! Glad you liked it. I’ll have to check out JCC.

      1. Writing poetry is definitely intense. Every word counts and has to be just so. You are not only a geek, but quite a great poet!

      2. I read a lot of poetry and get a great deal of inspiration from it. I once wrote an entire novel based on one line from Neruda’s ‘The Woes and the Furies.’

        I’m thinking that the market for narrative rhyming verse these days is in songwriting. And I get a lot of inspiration from my favorite singer-songwriters, too. And *geek alert* I collect murder ballads, in particular.

        Do check out JCC – He’s very gritty and funny and definitely not to everyone’s taste.

  2. Thanks, Ella! Every word has to be just so, yeah. Sometimes it feels like you’re penning a literary puzzle. Aspirin always at the ready.

  3. Murder ballads! Wow. I think the closest I’ve gotten to that is Sweeney Todd–love me some ghoulish period horror.

    While I admire some song lyrics, I do think the vast majority are poetry-lite. Original imagery and turns of phrase are what fascinate me most. And I love the musicality of meter and rhyme.

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