Friday, 19 October 2012

Military Industry: A Child Can Make Mustard Gas

As boys we did our best
to live up to the president’s
idea of going to the moon,
pooling our chemistry sets
and toolkits, borrowing
the kitchen helmet
and books from aunts
with drafted brothers
while the West Coast
learned to get high
in horned-rimmed glasses
and the rest of the country
waited for California
to slide into the Pacific.

So many Greek syllables on the way to the stars,
calculus ifs spinning out escape velocities
prone to variable entangled radiance, quanta
in elongated shadows for every action
a shadow action, the gist always close at hand

in the Bunsen burner’s feeble, steady hope
we took our cue to fold equal parts
sulfur and iron filings over a rising blue glow
enveloping so that it separated into stages,
pellets to stash away in test tubes
while we concentrated hydrochloric acid
following the formula for century gases
in the World Book Encyclopedia.

(Tacoma 2000)

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