Chemistry Lessons

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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.