4.08.2010

Solder

Smell of metal, Calvin Klein,
And concentration floods her nose.
Her wrists are cramped from firing
a solder gun against her skull.

It soaks her clothes, like river-damp.
The lead and ground are both attached.
She jabs the probe, the current pulls
Across the synapse. Sparks can catch

A flame, for just a moment, yet
A flame. The indicators light,
The splice, the trap admit the flow
Of voltage for the coming night.

She closes, latches shut her skull,
She tucks away her daily tools.
She brushes up, puts on her smile -
And picks the children up from school.

8 comments:

Trapunto said...

I thought by the time I came back from my trip there would be other comments on this, so I wouldn't be the first to say, "I like it even though I don't understand it." I don't have the background to unpack the metaphor--never having seen the "guts" of anything with circuitry except in a state of complete panic, usually when it was on its way to the dump. Solder is mesmerizing. Thanks for opening your own head!

Jason Gignac said...

Sorry you had to be first! I'm afraid as a rule it's actually very quiet here in Mooredland. Particularly my Thursday posts, which when I got comments on a few of them, I was absolutely floored, and a bit paranoid I'd said something rude or something :P. It's funny, I wonder if I would understand a poem that used weaving as a metaphor? :D

Soldering, if it helps any, is the way electronics are wired. When you look at a circuit board, you'll often see little dots of silver - this is solder. It's a metal alloy with a low-ish melting point, so that you can get it hot (with a soldering gun or iron, something like a glue gun except it doesn't squirt anything out, you just set the solder against it to melt it) and then drip the melted metal in order to create an attachment and an electrical connection between a component (like a transistor or a resistor, or what not) to a board, which is sort of a palette for gluing all your bits and pieces together. It also has a very distinctive odor to it - actually a unique, not appetizing, but at the same time really beautifully individual smell.

A new component, like let's say, a noisemaker that your going to put onto a toy, might be attached by soldering wires onto the outputs of the component, then taking the other end of the wire and soldering it to a controller that gives it power and activates it or whatever the toy 'does' (so, for instance, you might solder a noisemaker to a switch that gets pressed when you hug the toy, so that it sings a song or giggles, or whatever). This is what splicing is - cutting electronics onto existing electronics. It sort of implies that it's done aftermarket or in a hacked in, homebrew kind of way.

Once the splice is complete, you would test the voltage going to the device with a multimeter (a device for testing voltage, resistance, and all those other electronic things) by jabbing at the soldered spots with a probe, to make sure that you 'did it right' and electricity is flowing around the circuit.

The trap (aside from rather crude and obvious punning meaning) is a term from computing - the REALLY simplified explanation would be that a trap is something programmed to catch errors so that they do not interrupt system stability. So, a trap checks for errors on a logical continuity level - so for instance, if you tell your computer to divide by 0, a trap prevents the computer from attempting to do the impossible and crashing itself.

If that helps any.

Trapunto said...

Yes, that does help. You are a good explainer. I know about solder but not in an electronic context. Once I watched my dad fixed a broken barrette for me with his solder gun, and I do remember that smell--I loved it--and the magic of metal in a malleable state. When I've watched blacksmithing there's been a similar wonderful smell and a similar feeling, and it made complete sense to me why iron was supposed to be a ward against uncanny evils.

After your explanation the whole mood of the poem lightened a bit for me. Qualified triumph? But triumph is too strong. Anyway, I don't think it's fair to make poets talk about their poems, so you don't have to confirm or deny...

Jason Gignac said...

No, no! My poetry us no more meaningful or well thought out than your book reviews just a different way to talk - so if it's not fair for you to ask questions about my Poems it's not fair for me to ask questions about my reviews!

That being said... It's a difficult question to answer. I certainly DO want to give the impression of... Nit prowess but at least effectiveness. I think sort of self repair or augmentation is something that, for better or worse, must sometimes simply be done. I write most of my poems about things I'm thinking about myself, and this one fits that. Unfortunately the reason I'm veraifyibf it is because I'm thinking about it and simply don't know the answer. If one must be something other than ones self is it a victory or a defeat if one successfully manages the illusion? At what point does it cease to be one or the other? Maybe it's neither, maybe it's just reaction, just like, say, a flamingo eating shellfish and turning pink isn't a victory orna defeat - it's simply what happens. I don't know. What do you think?

Trapunto said...

Am I going on too long with this? 'Cause I know nothing is more depressing than watching someone dig a pit of complimentary misinterpretation for something you've written... I believe I can read it the way you were thinking now. Before, my markers were river damp (decay and generation) sparks catching (inspiration), so I was seeing making rather than repair. And the concentration and cramp of effort. Therefore: effort resulting in creativity, or at least some kind of creative activity. But also self-monitoring the result of that process, once you explained about traps. And coming night is doing all that in the face of both the little night (can only do so much in a day) and the Big Night (got to do it before you die, or doesn't get done). But the project can only be carried out in snatches: you have to get the kids at school.

Somehow I ignored the fact that there is no exterior product in the poem. The hands are working inside the head that is working the hands.

So there's an object lesson in the annoying habit of readers to latch on to the images that strike them, and make the rest of the poem fall into place to fit! (Speaking of picking up kids at school, I'm still mulling over your comment on my last post.)

Jason Gignac said...

I can very much agree with what you're saying - I will say in my mind (which isn't necessarily authoritative, I misinterpret things all the time) The line between repairing and making is very fine. The brain, if it were electronics, is most like a computer - meant to be flexible, to perform a number of different actions, clear inputs and outputs with only the murkiest and most theoretical understanding of the inner workings. Well, computers are funny, because they are both extremely expensive - one has a significant investment in one's computer, though this is slowly changing as prices draw down - and disposable by design. Through a combination of decay and obsoletion, a computer ends up 'getting old' - which really means, we ask it to do things it was not originally assembled to do (run a new operating system, let's say).

Well, there are two options when you get to this point - you buy a new system, or you upgrade your existing one, right? Well, while I personally have sometimes wished my wife and kids could just buy a more up to date Dad system, this is largely an untenable process, and this is probably true for most of us (though there are exceptions, of course). And from a selfish perspective, I don't want to be obsoleted, as much as it might be better for those about me. Life, instead, becomes a process of retrofitting one's self for the task at hand - upgrading this, rewiring that, installing this software, putting in hacks and bits, switching things and clenaing files, reprogramming, seeking out little ways to eke bits of efficiency from a system that is just not intended for it's set purpose. The cost of replacement is simply too high.

I suppose that's more the sort of thing I saw - making, yes, installing. But it's sort of a perpetual repairing, you know? I find myself doing this all the time, this si what spare moments are for: the dissassembly of little bits to clean to rewire to upgrade to replace to reprogram and reallocate, because one can never just shut the system down to do things right - as you state, one has to go pick up the children (though, again, I apparently sometimes fail to do so).

But this is all half-formed in my brain, I am sure I don't really understand it. But you're right - it's a closed system, the mind telling the hands to install the mind, and that's the beauty nad terror of it: on the one hand, it makes one realize how immense and profound the mind IS - a machine that repairs itself, that can ONLY repair itself, but on the other hand, the sure knowledge that any damage outside the mind's understanding is, simply, irreparable, though of course, the brain will continue to hammer at it anyway. Something like a hard drive dying - if a piece goes off track, the needles will keep beating at it, trying to read the lost bits of information, grinding and gouging out more of itself, until the entire contrivance has essentially devolved into a noisemaker.

Trapunto said...

I think there may be another poem in the last paragraph of your comment.

Dad is a system, not a program? That is scary to me. I mean, the idea of having to replace the whole system for optimal dadness. I'd like to think there's decent shareware or something...

Jason Gignac said...

Ms Trapunto - I would say that Dadness is a suite - it tends to integrate all the existing hardware and software components. So, one must have competent hardware AND software. Shudder, terror.