Schlieren Lines

By | 1 July 1998

imagine you pour a stream of
sugar solution into a beaker
of water, or pee into a bathtub
you see the twining translucent trails
as each solution curls around the
other, prior to their coalescence?

these are schlieren lines
my biochem hons supervisor,
the one who gave me to work with
radioactive compounds so old
they had no hope of giving me
cancer, let alone decent results,

taught me this much. I don’t quite
forgive him the dodgy materials
or for telling me in detail of his wife’s
travails with cystitis, over a cup of tea
and a plain biscuit at 11, the old
laboratory ritual, with the autoclave

busily hissing steam and the smell
of dilute ethanol drifting from ranked test
tubes in gradated hues of pink but I grant
that he gave me that unique pleasure
of having at last a word for
the thing I could never name

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