Eyewear is very glad to feature British poet John McCullough (pictured) this sunny London Friday, as The Selecter plays. His poetry has appeared in publications including London Magazine, The Guardian, The Rialto, Poetry London and Magma. He teaches creative writing at the Open University and the University of Sussex. His first collection is The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011). He's one of the best of the young generation.
Now you’re crossing that ocean, I have to confess
I’ve rather warmed to this shed where nothing is yours,
where your father consulted a sacred Bunsen flame.
Chipped oak, a gas tap, scores of powdered specimens –
the perfect stage for resurrecting my ‘A’ Level Chemistry.
I remember this much: each metal has a secret,
unchangeable colour. A Nichrome wire dipped
in compounds, then in fire, bares their truer shades.
It’s a bit like those stars, the ones you rehearsed
on the pebbles at Kemp Town: the blood
in Betelgeuse, Rigel’s constant blue – they show
only with a telescope’s fiercer attention.
You have to inspire electrons if you want to unveil
calcium’s brick red, barium’s green,
the strange lilac which simply means potassium.
Loyal friends, they return now with the tiniest prod,
make me smug as an alchemist,
impatient for knowledge of the lone unlabelled jar.
Reveal yourself, sweet familiar, I whisper to glass
before I’m blinded by the white heat
of a magnesium heart.
poem by John McCullough; reprinted with permission of the poet, from The Frost Fairs.