"Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn." ~Thomas Gray

"Poetry unites." ~Anon

"Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it." ~Emily Dickinson

Written by John McCullough
He lives in Brighton, United Kingdom

Originally published in Magma Poetry, 2003, then reappeared
in his collection,Cloudfish, published by Pighog Press.

Known Light

Now you’re crossing that ocean, I have to confess
I’ve rather warmed to this shed where nothing is yours,
where your father found God in a Bunsen flame.

Chipped oak, a gas tap, scores of powdered specimens –
the perfect stage for resurrecting my A level chemistry.
I remember this much:

a Nichrome wire dipped in compounds then in fire
bares their truer colours.
It’s a bit like those stars,

the ones you rehearsed on the pebbles at Kemp Town:
the blood in Betelgeuse, Rigel’s furtive blue -
they only show under fiercer, more devoted attention;

you have to inspire electrons if you want to unveil
calcium’s brick-red, barium’s green,
the strange lilac which means simply potassium.

Loyal friends, they return now at my diffident prodding,
make me smug as a sorcerer,
impatient for knowledge of the lone unlabelled jar.

Reveal yourself, sweet familiar, I whisper to glass
before I’m blinded by the white heat
of a magnesium heart.

Posted with consent of the writer.


  1. WHY? said...
    Hmmm, I need to figure out this piece (the meaning of that jar,) but there's something about it I really appreciate.
    K.Lawson Gilbert said...
    Oh, Bravo! This conjured an enchanting vision of wonder. I could see all those beautiful colors of metallurgy. Unique and fresh.
    Jannie Funster said...
    Wow, you really scout the great ones!
    RachelW said...
    Glorious! This one speaks to the chemist/alchemist in me.
    Crafty Green Poet said...
    I love this, its beautifully written and reminds me of all those intriguing colour burning experiments i did at school

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