Ace of Hearts: Nitrogen

Plain ace of hearts with an N on it, and the words, \'as de cœur\' Nitrogen, we breathe and we ignore.
We do not know what we are breathing for.
A large part of the air, the human race
is there to simply breathe, and nothing more.

Hot air, without reaction or a face,
with nothing more to do than take up space
continue, as today, and as before
breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, keep up the pace.

Should lightning strike, your senses to alert
And nitrogen to nitrates to convert
you’ll breathe with force of will and not cuirass
The air, the breath, the life, no more inert.

Your heart is not a mere ignoble mass.
Take nitrates, and create some biomass.
Take hold of the inertia, and invert:
Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in this noble gas.





This poem grew out of the poem based on the letter N mentioned on the About page, which I wrote at the 2006 Geneva Writers’ Conference. In the workshop I wrote the first two lines, and a draft of the first two stanzas.

I posted the poem before midnight, but I’m adding this commentary after midnight, since my PowerBook had chronic narcolepsy all Sunday and I had trouble typing much before it went to sleep. Now it’s only me who wants to sleep.

It’s either about making the most out of life and not doing boring, routine things, or it’s about taking the most boring, routine aspects of life and making something out of them — a poem, for instance. Even the most common, apparently useless elements can fertilise your mind, or your soil. The rhyme scheme sort of fell out of the initial lines I had jotted down. I considered making it AABA BBCB CCBC DDAD, with the third line of each stanza bringing the poem forward, but decided I liked the idea of each pair of stanzas being symmetric, ending up back where it started… like the inhalation and exhalation of a wasted breath. The poem as a whole can also be seen as a breath, with the first two stanzas being an exhalation and the next two, exhilaration, or inhalation.

I think that’s enough analysis of my own poem. I probably just ruined it for somebody. I was just amused that I actually thought of those things while writing it, because I’ve heard people come up with such weird abstract ideas while studying poems, and wondered whether the original author had any idea of the nonsense people would be making up about their supposed intentions. So for the benefit of any poor English students forced to study my poetry centuries from now, I’ll go on record as saying that these particular structural metaphors really are there, and anything else your teacher tells you is made up.

I saw in one of my decks a few weeks ago that the next suit would be hearts, so I’d resigned myself to three months off soppy love poetry. Then on Monday, when I drew the cards for the week, I saw that half my decks had diamonds coming up next. I checked The Solitaire Mystery to settle the issue, and found that it had clubs as the second suit. I didn’t feel like staying on a black suit, so I went with hearts. This weekend I did seriously consider switching to clubs, because I have something special planned for the king of clubs, and it should be finished within three months. But nothing in the aces of clubs particularly suited the poem, and I found I could easily insert the word ‘heart’ in there along with the four rhymes for ‘ace’, so I stayed with the ace of hearts. I have two decks with plain aces: St. James’ Gate (the home of Guinness), and a deck promoting a software company ‘Intriguing Development’, which I won at the ‘Stump the Experts’ session of the Worldwide Developers’ Conference in 2004. I decided that ‘Intriguing Development’ suited the poem better.

By the way, here’s someone who doesn’t breathe by force of will, but surely appreciates such boring, everyday things nonetheless.

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  1. #1 by imacsimum on June 10, 2008 - 9:30 am

    Life appears so simple for some…… do you remember Joy from Scrabble she had post polio syndrome, Aunty Patsy was the worse affected in grandmas family and now it is nearly wiped out….a killer disease.


  1. Nitrates really are good for the heart, and Jonathan Coulton’s coming back « Writing Cards and Letters

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