Mercury - The Element
Eugene Kim-Hokonya ©
It trickles as expeditiously as the Roman messenger god,
Scurrying like the Scarlet Speedster.
As shiny as a neon moon, a liquid silver;
When I am indisposed, it shows me how ill I am;
It soars and cascades.
At room temperature it liquefies,
But consequentially, after sensing its thin, electric surface,
The element’s surface is warm, yet nocuous;
Ancient as Queen Elizabeth,
Espoused to electricity, fluorescent light bulbs blink,
And blobs like in mud bubble, when heated.
The shiny, aluminium-like liquid is as worthy as gold,
Rare in quality, it still roams in the Earth’s core.
Like viscous molten lava, it damages all living things.
Encapsulated in thermometers is this murderous natural substance which
Is as pure as water.
A fast Hermes, chemical symbol Hg,
Our world needs this to endure phrenetic fevers and flus,
And for a light-source at home, it is indispensable.
The homework that we do depends on that which is
Contained in the incandescent invention we call
A light-bulb: Mercury.
— Dedicated to Mrs JLC and Mrs JOM.
About the poem: ‘Mercury — The Element’, originally called ‘Mercury — The Metal’ by Eugene Kim-Hokonya ©
What inspired me to write this poem?
In actual fact, this poem was given to me as a homework assignment by my American high-school English teacher living in Africa. Let’s get this straight — the title wasn’t given to me, but the instruction to write a highly descriptive poem was. My English teacher, Mrs JLC, commented on the original version:
[Yes, I still keep my books from high-school …]
Did you know?
Hydrargyrum, symbol Hg, which means ‘liquid silver’, is the scientific name for the element mercury, of which Mercury happens to be the name of the messenger god in Roman mythology. However, in Greek mythology, Mercury is known as Hermes. In short, Hydrargyrum (Latin and Greek roots) is mercury, but the Roman Mercury is the Greek Hermes.
Why did I do that? That’s interesting to know!
a) Line one: Expeditiously
Expeditiously means quickly; quick is in quicksilver (the element mercury’s common name).
The noun formed from the adverb expeditiously is expedition , which means “an organised journey with a purpose”. The Roman messenger god Mercury would go on expeditious expeditions …
b) “Scurrying like the Scarlet Speedster” — 1. 1st evidence of alliteration.
2. The Scarlet Speedster, or the Flash, is an expeditious DC comic superhero. Refer to (a).
3. Personification of the metal through the use of the word ‘scurrying’, and simile through the use of: “like the Scarlet Speedster”.
c) The reason why I changed ‘touched’ to ‘sensed’ from the original version of my poem, is because in French, sentir means both to touch/feel and sense, so I purposely made it ambiguous.
d) “Electric surface” — Electric is in connexion with electricity.
e) “Ancient as Queen Elizabeth, /(y)et effervescent” — 1. Rearrange this as: “Effervescent ancient Queen Elizabeth” and you form an oxymoron.
2. Effervescent means ‘lively’ or ‘bubbly’. (Some metals have effervescent reactivities when mixed with water or acids.)
f) “(I)t still roams in the Earth’s core” — ‘Roams’ = personification
g) “Espoused to electricity, fluorescent light bulbs blink, /… blobs … bubble” — 1. 2nd use of alliteration.
2. Espoused is the literary and archaic synonym for ‘married’ — personification.
NB — Further indications of alliteration: “phrenetic fevers and flus” & “incandescent inventions”. Note the archaic spelling of frenetic.