Skip to Content

When I recite Hopkins,
hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium
bubble up instead of
kingfishers and dragonflies,
the first ten elements
catching fire and drawing flame,
the most basic things, doing
one thing and the same, telling
as each tucked string tells
each hung bell’s bow swung

in a chemistry exam
I found a tongue
to fling out broad their names,
boron, carbon,
what I do is for me—
the only two things
I’ve ever tried to memorize—
for that I came.
These postal abbreviations of atoms—
lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not His—
ten thousand places
and a poem about how
each mortal thing,
nitrogen, oxygen,
speaks and spells,
does one thing
and the same,
fluorine, neon,
to the father
through the features

of men’s faces.