‘We Shall See’ – Sarah Watkinson

Sarah Watkinson Oxford Stanza Two

Sarah Watkinson
Oxford Stanza Two

Bohr theorised that the place of an element in the periodic table (its atomic number) was directly related to the charge on the nucleus. Moseley famously replied, ‘We shall see.’

‘We Shall See’

It would still work, this honest apparatus
seen here dismembered, under glass, with notes;
strange as an unknown creature’s fossilised bones  ̶
its workings, at first glance, as hard to guess.

A hundred years, three hundred years away
from where I stand, and with two wars between,
you laboured underground with this machine;
probed each element, read its answering rays.

You were born and schooled in the love of Nature,
bird watching in summer fields along the river,
strategic and clever as your chess-champion mother.
Did her rows of eight foretell your future?

I see you, a young man in an hour-long lecture,
muse on the periodic table. Why
do the elements cycle between dull and fiery
in rows of eight? How does the atom’s structure

change? Is it nuclear charge? I stand in awe
of you   ̶   who made this   ̶   to see if that was true.

© Sarah Watkinson, October 2015

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