Monday, October 14, 2013

Silly Science Poems

If anyone wants to attempt identifying all of the jokes and references in these poems, I'll tell you if you are right and if you missed any (that I intentionally constructed). The poems are more fun, I think, if you find the jokes, but some of the lines are just silly, not subtle. Enjoy, if you can. :)

Incompatible Mixture

I tried dancing with xylose, so nimble and sweet,
But she left me with nothing but two aching feet.

I tangoed with hexane before going to bed,
But her perfume left me light in the head.

Allowed me one two-step and then fled the hall.

Go figure,” I said, as ketones and pentoses
Turned their backs to me while raising their noses,

I love chemistry and dance. What’s wrong with this picture?”
My lab partner just said, “Incompatible mixture."

(I'll help with interpreting this one:
  • xylose is a sugar with a cool name
  • I have been sensitized to hexane, so while most people don't like the smell but just forget it once the fumes have been cleared, I get headaches from this relatively innocuous organic solvent
  • The next chemical was made up to match the meter and rhyme, although it probably could be synthesized 
  • ketones and pentoses are just two more classes of organic molecules
That's really all there is to this poem.)

The two sonnets that follow have a lot more subtle references to toddlerhood (and anemia) and science, particularly basic things you are taught in physics classes when you start studying electrons. 

To my niece in her second year

You smile and laugh and flash that lively glint
That melts the rocks your lips do kiss. Yet should
You slip, to the complacent crowds, some hint
Of your true self, you’d not be understood.
You crave to sink your teeth into a book—
Were I to tell the crowds as much, unfazed,
Their smiles would say, “How nice,” and overlook
The import of your most inhuman taste—
But I know. No, I do not know the tide
Or moon that makes you so, or what sweet wine
May flow within your veins, yet love will hide
My fear of all that’s strange—Oh, Caroline.
No, never will I let them halt your growth—
Your secret’s safe, my chemolithotroph.

To an electron in spring

Now tell me, will I ever see you spin
on stage alone? Yet even if my clum-
sy eyes could see so fine would my mind numb
with trying to comprehend your nimble spin
in “circles,” up and down and only half
way round? John Henry dug great tunnels through
the earth so we might follow. Tunneling through
much steeper walls you leave no signs of hav-
ing passed and lead me nowhere. Left alone
I wonder where you’ve gone and where you are
but I will never know so much. You’re far
too private, too elusive to be known.
Although your coyness mocks my mind and heart,
without you near my life would fly apart.

No comments:

Post a Comment