Posted tagged ‘they don’t let kids have real chemistry sets anymore’

Chemical Make-up

October 26, 2014


Chemical Make-up

Let the kids curl
around Heny Swarzfigger, who could pull
a nickel from his ear,
rolling the r’s in his

He knew that magic words
ended in -ide or -ate,
even -ic (hydrochloric), – ium (potassium),
and, okay, sometimes -ur–(only sulfur
he laughed with that squashed grin
that masked the jokes no one else
ever got, was more of a

and that the shine on his brown basement
bottles, his beakers (mason jars)
and the true test tubes–three had come
with his first set and only one
had exploded–was brighter than even a coin
made out of gold (Au), though nickel (Ni)
was pretty neat stuff–good
for alloys and sea green–and he pushed up
the wire bridge of his glasses, and, for a moment,
the small round lenses were portholes
through which he could see waves
of mounded nickel compound, crystalline
aquamarine, though actually
more granulated–

and he’d been a sh–sh–shy boy
even before the TB took him so long away,
blanketing him, the only child, in a far cold place,
its windows flung open
even to snow–
it was the froth he liked especially,
that free-form fizz that sometimes whizzed
beyond prediction, a lava let loose,
that could, he knew, if he made a single
mistake, burn more
than his remaining
eyebrows, that might even
curl up the planked stairwell,
engulf the still upstairs, dissolving everything
in its place up there, the irrefutable proof
that all came down to atoms
colliding with
his mother’s firm tidiness, till the bubbling roar
pushed its way outdoors–

Oh, then, the kids would have something to see, he thought,
now squinting in the halo of bunsen burner,
the blue glow of incipient reaction.


Another draftish too-long sort of poem. This one is for Herotomost’s lovely prompt on “mah thing” when young, posted on With Real Toads.  In this case, I chose to write about my dad’s thing, chemistry  My dad was a very shy child, intensely devoted to his lab.  This may have come from being an only child, who had tuberculosis at age 7, which required him to spend two years away from home in a sanatorium.  The drawing as is the case with most on this blog is mine.  All rights reserved.