chemistry lessons

photo by N.Klapetzky, edited by the author


there is salt, and there is salt.
what’s the difference,
my father asked me at dinner
the other day, between
sea salt and plain ol’
en-ay-see-el? and i said

sea salt is less strict, dad,
more complicated;
but i don’t know if that’s right;
don’t know its bio-
chemical makeup, how late
it lets its daughters

out at night. chemicals aren’t
all latch-key and angle, you know.
for instance, there are some in the brain
more sensitive to love
than to cocaine. i’ve heard this;
that, chemically, love is the most terrible

addiction. crazy women need brave lovers,
the poet said; this i know also
to be true; i’ve seen crazy.
but i don’t know their chemistry, either:
not love or crazy. my professor
used to wear unmatched socks;

he taught the dissociation of salts.
his eyes were the color of sea glass.
he told my father once i
was the most impressive he’d ever had.
i could have loved him, then,
but i was addicted to my own heart-

beat. that rhythm is less biochemical
than electrical: a crazy drummer in my head
banging out signals to my chest.
i hope he is brave.
too much salt can fuck
it all up, cause heart-

ache. like breathing in sea glass.
how long can you hold your
breath underwater? my cousin
and i used to swim in the lake
by my grandparents’ house,
catch turtles on cane poles

with bits of old bread.
the biggest one we dragged up
onto the shore, and my father
sliced her neck while
her jaws were clamped
onto the back handle of an old broom.

that was before i knew chemistry.
or love. or that guilt could be as addictive
as cocaine. i’m not sure if this
is true, but i have seen crazy.
turtles, the poet said, turtles
all the way down.



They say great poets are thieves. I must be on my way to greatness, then. The lines I took shamelessly came from the inestimable Claudia Schoenfeld, here, and the Bard of Liminga himself, Ray Sharp, to whose poem “of the salt and the light,” this was written as a response.

11 thoughts on “chemistry lessons

  1. Hey, me off thread as usual (chuckle). I know WordPress needs more support with these wonderful blogs being free and all. The new ad links on key words doesn’t bother me on my site but here where each word is important I find inappropriate. The WordPress family may agree? they are always helpful in looking for solutions. Maybe it is just me and my phobia of too many links………..

    • hmm… i guess because i am always logged in here, i don’t see the ad links? going to investigate this further… thanks for bringing it to my attention. 🙂

  2. My fault, I got something in my Chrome browser “Rival Gaming” that was causing this problem. I should have known it wasn’t WordPress. You really can’t let your guard down on these machines. Sorry for comment but it did help me correct my problem.

  3. This is superb. I love both the poem’s ostensibly casual voice and the discursive narrative line that keeps looping back to the poem’s main concerns. Excellent.


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