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.
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.