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Poem: The Periodic Table of Elements

Books & Poetry

In today’s Poet’s Corner, Bruce Greenhalgh looks at a particular chemistry lesson that has likely challenged many students.

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The Periodic Table of Elements

Introduced to the Periodic Table of Elements
I was dismayed to discover
that it listed more
and less
than earth, wind, fire and water.
One hundred and eighteen elements (and counting)
arranged by atomic number
in an obscure scheme
of electrons and abbreviations.
An exposition of all that matters about matter
that left me confused and deflated
unable to fathom the information
held in its drab squares.

Like a Soviet-era tractor
a table devoid of any art
no pandering to the eye
no space to give pause to reflect
on sodium
or potassium
or Byzantium
no flair, no mystery, no poetry
nothing, for me.

The Periodic Table of Elements and I
have gone our separate ways.
The decree absolute of our divorce
delivered with my chemistry exam results.
It was never meant to be
and what the table ever saw in me
I’ll never know.
I was never destined
to add to its numbers.

Bruce Greenhalgh is a fitness instructor and writer of poetry. He attends poetry readings around Adelaide. In August 2015 he was the Adelaide City Library’s Poet in Residence, and in 2016 the winner of Friendly Street’s Nova Prize.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to poetscorner@solsticemedia.com.au. Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.

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