Today’s poem is from Law & Impulse: maths and chemistry poems, published by The Poets Union for National Science Week 2010.
Rolling the hollow rod above the bunsen,
blue flame glowing orange where fire embraces glass,
turning it in the fingertips watching for something
almost ineffable, the particular shine that denotes
a particular malleability.
Then taking the rod from the flame
and in one swift motion stretching it,
six inches for a pipette (if making
capillary tubes, the full arms’ length
as if to say This far! to a sceptical crowd).
If attempted prematurely, it will force a sluggish length
that cramps up again too soon;
left too late and the rod’s slack belly
will droop into the fire, irreparably deviate.
Once the tube is cooled, take a file
and make a nick
at mid-point where you will snap it, rendering
two tiny mouths wide-open; fitting to the other end
a rubber bulb, a lung, to draw up some solution
that mustn’t touch the skin.
Patience, narrow observation and precision are required
to forge this least precise of measures.
A certain dramatic flair merely adds to the pleasure.