“Augusta Ada Lovelace, A.A.L.”, “Made Up” and “Six Hours before Performance”

Augusta Ada Lovelace

Augusta Ada Lovelace, A.A.L.

She walks in, seventeen and agate-pale,

to view the Difference Engine No. 1

with her maman—blue taffeta, white veil,

herself a fearsome intellect and bastion

of social justice. Great gold instrument,

steam engine structure and pipe organ height,

exquisitely bewitching. Ada, intent

on further knowledge, observes the bright-

ly glinting cogs, the difference columns, hears

the subtle click and whir as gears rotate

toward zero value. The heavenly spheres

themselves must turn like this. She feels it’s fate

to send her questing, more-than-mortal brain

on expedition in Babbage’s domain

of beautiful half-dreamed engines. Ada waits

ten years to make her full impact

while her polymath preceptor alternates

between awe of her and concern for the fact

she seeks to go beyond the present bounds

of knowledge. Ada knows there’s more to know

and, through translating an article, expounds

her thoughts on abstract computation, shows

in diagrams calm yet eloquent how

the analytical engine’s power can

be used to find Bernoulli numbers, now

convinced that the proposed machine could an-

-alyze all subjects, engine of delight,

its prospect stretching infinite, like the night.

Made Up

wand-hand shaking, you scrape your gray, slack eyes,

take a break, switch sides, graze icing on the rim

of your edible face, make the glazed look

click with thicker swipes. one side sticks; you pull

each snagged lash free and plaster them in black.

a reconstructed socket’s what we want.

uncork another tube and thumb the won't-

smudge shine across your ridge of submerged eyes,

lid-bound and jerking in compacted blinks,

scrawl on a charred collar, 'til there's no room

left to scrawl. step outside, scan the light poles

hunching low over the coiling fog lake

that hits the sidewalks after sunfall, like

an atmospheric ashy snake. no wind

or pentecostal fire descends, compels

it to leave. caught in mist that masks your eyes,

humidity sinks in. you meant to roam

further afield, go to that party a block

or so away, dance, talk, snap pics and blog

about it afterward. but now, as luck

would have it, your face with its butter-rum

lipgloss is transfixed, the evening fog wind-

ing closer until it’s absorbed by your eyes.

your routine artistry: baked-pink cheeks, pale

oval underneath arched brows, you’re a pile

of textured color, hungry, shining, blank

of purpose. or are you? did you bold your eyes

for fun or did a higher meaning leak

down? mesmerized here when you might’ve gone

trotting toward that party, where they ram

music through their ears so hard their REM

is riddled with wounded sounds. this fog pool

at moonrise knows you’re meant for it. just wait,

wait for the ritual you’ll be enacting—bleak

or grand, giving thanks or crying mercy—for lack

of better words, mediating with your eyes.

on All-Faces-Eve, your eyes are the rim of the world.

you invented yourself to look like someone who pulls

mystic transmissions from black nights, whenever you want.

Six Hours before Performance

1 p.m., but here, it’s always night.

the lunar off-blue of the spotlight blends

with champagne haloes from the batten lamps,

and spills offstage to brush the cushioned seats.

The matteblack floor’s crosshatched with residue

from skeletons of blocking tape, and I

feel more than hear the dull clack of my low-

heeled boots as I move to the apron’s edge.

And there it is. A view that sinks inside

my eyes, a crowdscape full or halfway full

or hollowed-out and solitary, like

it is right now. Empty seats don’t represent

a loss—they stretch their arms six hours ahead,

and wait. I’m waiting with them, facing out,

caught underneath the not-moon, thinking

it’s a cool night, and I left my coat at home.

Pre-show, a current thrills the house, becomes

a half-heard prophecy that says tonight

I will not be deferred—I will arrive.

About the Author

Leigh Holland

Leigh Holland grew up in Alabama, got an MFA in Creative Writing from Vanderbilt University, and now teaches English in South Korea. Her poetry has appeared or will soon appear in the Alabama Literary Review, Rumblefish Quarterly, Subterranean Blue, Panoplyzine, The Remembered Arts Journal and Gargoyle Magazine.

Read more work by Leigh Holland.