Sonia Greenfield was born and raised in Peekskill, New York, and her book, Boy with a Halo at the Farmer's Market, won the 2014 Codhill Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in a variety of places, including in 2010 Best American Poetry, The Antioch Review, The Bellevue Literary Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Willow Springs. Her chapbook, American Parable, won the 2017 Autumn House Press/Coal Hill Review prize and is forthcoming in March of 2018. She lives with her husband and son in Hollywood where she edits Rise Up Review and co-directs the Southern California Poetry Festival.

Sonia Greenfield

What Chemistry Should be Used For

Only a savage wouldn't love Mendeleev's table, elements orderly in their squares, a chart of everything ever assembled, cell walls partitioning what, when combined, has been used to set children on fire. My son doesn't seize anymore for half a pill he swallows with milk twice a day.  Lamotrigine makes two spoked hexagons of its atomic model built in a lab, my son's  mouth now free of foam, his muscles unlocked, eyes unrolled. Sarin's structure  looks equally clean as an organophosphorous compound in that way all deadly things can when reduced to atomic formula. It feels as though every chemical is inert until  acted upon by alchemists trying to make gold out of bodies piled on bomb-swept streets.

Sarin gas was in the news with relation to its use in Syria. As a chemical weapon, it does horrible things to people. Naturally, I began thinking, once again, how when the patriarchy wages war or engages in power struggles, mothers lose the most. Are left without their children. Must carry the brunt of mourning. That there are people in this world who calculate the deaths of children as mere collateral makes me feel like I must be from an entirely different planet than the one they come from. At any rate, it's interesting to look up the atomic models of such chemical compounds because there is something comforting in the sterility of science, yet it astonishes that there is a whole industry dedicated to the science of murder just as there is a science dedicated to healing.

Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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