Chemistry Lessons

The glass thermometer shattered,
mercury sliding across the tile,

my mother knelt in the spilt silver
discarding shards of glass, chasing

the freed beads onto a plate.
Once she’d caught them all, she called me

to see how the mercury rolled
and roiled, the big beads swallowing

the small, then shivering apart
at the shake of the plate. I watched

them gather and quake, I’d swear I played
all afternoon, poking the beads

shiny as joy, in love with the gleam
and with my mother. And she in turn

remembers summer afternoons
when, as a child, she went running

behind mosquito trucks, joining
the children up and down the street

skipping through the great white clouds
of poison. And I wonder what dangers

I’ll offer my daughter as distraction
when the hours till bedtime swell,

and whether she, having survived
those dangers, remembering them some day

will insist that they were beautiful.

Chelsea Rathburn

Chelsea Rathburn

Chelsea Rathburn’s third poetry collection, Still Life with Mother and Knife, is forthcoming from LSU Press in early 2019. A native of Miami, Fla., she now lives in the mountains of North Georgia, where she directs the creative writing program at Young Harris College.
Chelsea Rathburn

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Author: Chelsea Rathburn

Chelsea Rathburn’s third poetry collection, Still Life with Mother and Knife, is forthcoming from LSU Press in early 2019. A native of Miami, Fla., she now lives in the mountains of North Georgia, where she directs the creative writing program at Young Harris College.