THE TETRAHEDRAL KITES
I. Alexander Graham Bell & the Preoccupation
By noon, the winds fail. The lull
the time. I'll say, I know exactly
that is my shape, or my misuse
or real. Dreams, you say. Yes, and strong.
When I dream of this, I'm not the age
of yolk and shell. You said four sides
meant an hour more for us? We could
me, in a gift you gave to last
III. Alexander Graham Bell & His Circle
My friends, watch this. I've taken all
or in sleep, hours lost in nowheres,
like the life I lead, and like the ones
in emptiness, but dignified
IV. Alexander Graham Bell & the Paper Bird
I'm no good at this. I understand
the problem of the two not going
a million nows, a million heres?
together. If you're right, and we are,
V. Alexander Graham Bell & the Solution
But that's the thing, you think you've got
commitment to the work itself
C. In all of the above, show love
Someday, your kite will reach the air.
VI. Alexander Graham Bell & the Winged Boat
After the experiments, the years
all hours, dreaming of a cloud
of stars, dead though they may be
or blindly drift.
Alexander Graham Bell wasn't just interested in transmitting sound over the air. He dreamed of humans taking to the air too. Between 1903 and 1909, he designed and tested enormous kites, strengthened by grids of elegant tetrahedral (pyramid) cells. The journals he kept during this period are illustrated with photographs of Bell and his colleagues, sometimes assembling the kites, sometimes hoisting them upwards, sometimes bracing for disaster. The journals can be viewed on [the Library of Congress website].
The photographs inspired my sonnet sequence not because the famous telephone man features in them but because I feel the kite-maker's obsession in myself. We all experience some form of it: the impulse to button our coats, straighten our ties, and set about the doomed business of making something beautiful. I chose the sonnet to match that sentiment and wrote the lines in tetrameter in admiration of Bell's own tetrahedral arrangements.