I look up to the sky in search of you,
to sunlight that you hide your soul above.
You’re on the other side, in heaven’s crown,
in happiness, but I, in longing, weep.
It’s lonely here relying on myself
to hug myself inside and think of you.
I’ll reach the other side and we will meet
Already I am dying for your touch.
The fates are working for us, I’ll be there.
I’m crossing over, sole to interrupt
the festive fuss to mark your change of state.
Around the Stanford torus that’s our world
I’ll take a pleasant stroll to be with you
before we both embark for wedded life.
This week I decided it was time I paid more attention to the letter of the week. This was partly out of necessity, since by Friday evening I still hadn’t extracted an idea from the cards. So I opened several of my more interesting dictionaries to the letter O to see what I would find. My dictionary of space had an entry on the O’Neill cylinder, a proposed space habitat consisting of rotating cylinders which would use centrifugal force to create artificial gravity. This led me to read about the Stanford torus, a similar habitat based on one of O’Neill’s other designs.
The Stanford torus, as originally designed, would be a hollow doughnut-shaped object 1800m in diameter, rotating once per minute. People would live inside the doughnut, where centrifugal forces would push them against the outer wall with about the same force as Earth’s gravity. In the middle of the ‘doughnut hole’ would be a central hub surrounded by a ring of mirrors reflecting the sun’s light from another mirror into the living quarters. You can see a painting of what it would be like, along with one of an O’Neill cylinder, at the bottom of this page.
The thing that struck me about both these designs is that it’s inside-out. Whereas on Earth, you could imagine digging down through the Earth as a shortcut to the other side, on a Stanford torus, you’d have to start by going ‘up’ to get to the other side of the torus. So I thought of two lovers on opposite sides of the torus, looking up, each imagining the other somewhere behind the mirrors, just 1800m away. This naturally reminded me of the reason people on Earth most often look up in search of loved ones; the loved ones had crossed over to ‘the other side‘, a euphemism for death that I also used two weeks ago. And the seeds for a twist ending were sown.
But of course, if the protagonist only needed to walk at most 2.83km to get to his or her loved one, why not just go instead of sitting there weeping? This is where the queen of diamonds comes in. I was told when I visited Dublin that the Temple Bar area was a very popular destination for stag and hen parties, until the practice was banned. So one of the lovers was having such a party, and the other did not want to interrupt it, since the other half of the couple is generally not welcome at these events. I hope that this is clear on the second reading of the poem, once you know that nobody is dead, and not clear on the first reading.
The poem is almost an Italian sonnet, with the rhyme scheme ABBAABBA CDECDE. To capture the weird inside-out nature of the Stanford torus, I put the rhymes in the middle instead of at the end of each line, somehow representing the infinite valley of a torus. It was difficult to get used to writing like that. A rhyme at the end hems in the rest of the line, whereas a rhyme in the middle leaves the second half of the line dangling free, giving me little guidance on how best to fill it in. What’s more, I don’t think the rhymes are at all evident when reading the poem. It’s strange how much of a difference this makes, considering I’d only have to shift the poem along by two feet and it would be a normal sonnet.
In fact, let’s try it. Here is the same poem, projected onto a sphere:
For wedded life, I look up to the sky,
in search of you to sunlight that you hide.
Your soul above, you’re on the other side,
in heaven’s crown, in happiness, but I,
in longing, weep. It’s lonely here rely-
ing on myself to hug myself inside
and think of you, I’ll reach the other side
and we will meet, already I am dy-
ing for your touch. The fates are working for us,
I’ll be there. I’m crossing over, sole
to interrupt the festive fuss to mark
your change of state. Around the Stanford torus
that’s now our world I’ll take a pleasant stroll
to be with you before we both embark.
Well, it sounds nicer in some ways, but I’m not sure if it makes sense, what with half the twist relocated to the beginning. Perhaps I should rewrite it so that this transformation would still make perfect sense but completely change the meaning of the poem. Maybe later. For now, how about this slightly more adapted version:
In search of you I look up to the sky
above the sunlight where you soul must hide.
In heaven’s crown, you’re on the other side,
in happiness, but I, in longing, cry.
I’m lonely, on myself I must rely
to think of you and hug myself inside.
We’ll meet when I will reach the other side,
To feel your touch this moment I would die.
I’ll be there soon, the fates are working for us.
I’m crossing over, interrupting sole
the festive fuss your change of state to mark.
Around the world, our spinning Stanford torus,
to be with you is but a pleasant stroll
before for wedded life we both embark