Umbrella’s lighter offshoot

John Milbury-Steen

teaches English as a Second Language at Temple University, Philadelphia. He received a Master’s in Creative Writing from Indiana University, Bloomington, studying with Ruth Stone.

He served in the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa and has worked as an artificial intelligence programmer in Computer Based Education at the University of Delaware.

Among his publishing credits are The Beloit Poetry Journal, Blue Unicorn, Dark Horse, The Piedmont Literary Review and Shenandoah.

—Back to Bumbershoot Contents—

Chlorine and the Noble Gases

Here in the seventh column, incomplete,
I only need one more. Oh Lewis Dot,
where is the nearest sodium? She’s hot.
Whenever we are joined at the right spot,
we bond, content to make a sweaty salt,
happy in our magic number eight.

I’m green chlorine with others who are -ine:
bromine, fluorine, iodine, et al.
We’re so hard up, we’re even keen to fall
to wound or toilet for a germ or stain.
With anything, including dirt, we join.
Next door to me in self-sufficient houses

live those little gods, the pompous asses,
celebrated as the noble gases,

self-satisfied and proof to any tresses.
They all turn up their noble noses at
the likes of us who wallow in excesses.
They’re tapped as the inert air put between
two window panes. Their kind, whenever seen,
becomes the bright neon of glowing signs

that light Las Vegas, luring everyone
to his desiregaudy, while having none.
They have attained aseity, assez,
that self-sufficient and divine OK.
They’re eight, I’m only seven, so I’m bound
by number in my own array to bond.

My anguished atom burns on that brimstone
I missed the self-contained by only one.