Atomic Courtesy Collaboration – Jacobson

A collaboration with the talented Marcy Erb and featured on her eclectic blog Illustrated Poetry | Art by Marcy Erb

Illustrated Poetry

GIF by John Sapiro

Atomic Courtesy

To smash the simple atom
All mankind was intent.
Now any day
The atom may
Return the compliment.

Ethel Jacobson

collage of beige and red particles escaping from a black concentric reactor

John Sapiro and I began our email correspondence about this little poem and the history of the atomic age a few months ago, before the early August anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but amidst the early chaos of the pandemic. It seemed almost ridiculous to be talking about yet another threat to worldwide health, peace, and humanity and yet, it was the mood of the day. I couldn’t find an exact date for Ethel Jacobson’s poem, although it is in a book I have that has a copyright date of 1952. And so our conversation centered mostly around the cold war of the 1950s and 60s but veered around widely. We talked about the physicist Richard Feynman and his…

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Having it Out with Melancholy

LITHIUM CARBONATE | Li2CO3 – PubChem

2. BOTTLES

Elavil, Ludiomil, Doxepin,
Norpramin, Prozac, Lithium, Xanax,
Wellbutrin, Parnate, Nardil, Zoloft.
The coated ones smell sweet or have
no smell; the powdery ones smell
like the chemistry lab at school
that made me hold my breath.

—Jane Kenyon, “Having it Out with Melancholy” (excerpt)

“The temporal fire and the eternal thou hast seen, my son, and art come to a part where of myself I discern no further…”

When all the stair was sped beneath us and we were on the topmost step Virgil fixed his eyes on me and said: “The temporal fire and the eternal thou hast seen, my son, and art come to a part where of myself I discern no further. I have brought thee here with understanding and with skill…No longer expect word or sign from me. Free, upright and whole is thy will and it were a fault not to act on its bidding…”

—Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion…The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried…Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance