The Noble Gases (continued)

1
No wonder I can never remember all eight—
there are only six. I have a place mat
with the periodic table of the elements on it—
I guess it’s time to get it out again.
The ones I never forget are neon
and radon—bar signs and killers in the basement.
I usually remember Superman’s Achille’s heel,
thus krypton, and if I think of Jason, I might
think of Argonauts and thus argon, but
usually I don’t. Almost never will
I think of helium, the most famous one,
the silly voice, the birthday balloon,
the one that can overfill your lungs
and kill you, leeching all your oxygen.

2
There are so many things I can’t remember
all at once. Did I lock the door or not?
Trying to cover up for a name I forgot,
I always introduced myself to my friend’s mother.
I wanted her to say her name back to me.
She never did, but one time said through her teeth,
“I know who you are, god damn it.”
I know her name now, but she’s dead. I don’t need it.
I forget whole poems I’ve written. And other names,
of course, of people I ought to know, and students,
within weeks (or days) of turning in final grades.
I forgot how to start the Lord’s Prayer more than once.
My father’s early Alzheimer’s makes this shit
fraught so I try to console myself with lists.

3
The boys sat in the back, playing chess in their heads.
My friend Beckie and I decided we had too many plots
of Gilligan’s Island in our bright enough heads
to do what they did, several turns in before someone forgot
where some piece was and they argued and then they were done.
I rear-ended a Jeep that same trip, having forgotten
to keep far enough back, forgetting to count
one thousand one, one thousand—ouch.

The noble gases are noble because they’re inert,
unchanging, unlike those brains with the tangles and plaques.
And which noble gas is it inside a laser can fix your eyesight?
Which one makes the IMAX movies so bright?
It’s xenon, which, until a friend pointed it out,
I’d forgotten. I can never remember what all I lack.

With thanks to Max Garland,

and Beckie Hendrick,

and John Heasley (who did remember xenon)

photo (1)

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