June 19, 2012 · Posted in Everything Else  

There’s a trick you can do with iron to make it float up into the sky, and that’s to foam it up with enough vacuum so that it has, for a mass of its volume, a lower density than the atmosphere at 50,000 feet. Say, 150 to 200 grams per cubic meter. And then you anneal the outer layers so that no air can get in. It’s the proverbial lead balloon, and, get this, the larger it is, least dense toward the middle, most solid toward the outer skin, the stronger and more buoyant it can be. Make it the size of an aircraft carrier. Make it bigger than that. Embed silicon in the structural foam, aligned just so, and when you drop it into atmosphere and ballast it so it sinks even lower, the compressive force of the atmosphere on the piezoelectric structure generates a polarized electric charge you can put to work.

It helps to do all this in space, up where vacuum is free. Where silicates and carbonates and iron and nickel and other clever little atoms are in fairly cheap supply. The chief export of space exploration is space itself, hard vacuum, measured by cubic kilometers. And you can use it to raft together floating cities, lowered down in chunks on cables out of the sky from geosynchronous satellites. The old Indian Rope Trick. Who’d have thought?


There’s a trick you can do with iron to make it float up into the sky. You can always tell when you run across somebody who knows this trick because they weigh down their pockets with iron and steel, and line their shoes with it and wear it on their wrists and fingers as jewelry. Some go as far as to ring their waists with it, studded into a belt or, more drastically, embed it in their skin with mundane-looking piercings that they pave over with tattoos. They carry iron and wear iron and eat and drink iron and remain light on their feet and glide up and down stairs, enjoying the lift but trying not to be noticed. If you carry a compass, these men and women will deflect the needle, and modern-day GPS devices and mobile electronic devices with these things built in get confused and tell lies to their owners.


There’s a trick you can do with iron to make it float up into the sky. You light the fire of civilization under it.

You light the fire of civilization under it, and it oozes from lumps of rock under the soil and boils up to the surface, extruding itself into beams and girders that climb each other and stretch upward for miles, aggregating in huge clusters that eventually fling pieces of themselves into the sky until they stick there, orbiting, and then launch themselves, infected with this self-refining virus, at nearby celestial objects.


There’s a trick you can do with iron to make it float up into the sky. It requires a knife and an artery.

There isn’t a lot of iron in the blood itself, and maybe that’s why it doesn’t leap very high. But the iron in the head and the iron in the heart, the iron in the name and the iron in the shadow, all of these detach like an octopus letting go of an old friend and speed into the sky like an arrow.

You can launch an iron-laden shadow into the sky, easy as anything, with a light from underneath.


There’s a trick you can do with iron to make it float up into the sky. Kiss it. Stroke it with a feather. Anoint it with fragrant aromatic oils. Entice it with warm breath and chocolate and the deep-throated hum of a lullaby. These things make many things weightless, stop all downward acceleration and momentum, but the effect on a lump of iron, in particular that mass that rides the chest and shoulders like a drowning child who suffocates a would-be rescuer, is surprising and dramatic.


June 7, 2012 · Posted in poetry