Twilight now, and the night school teacher sits beneath
the great chart of the periodic table in the chemistry classroom
the overcrowded college across the street has rented
and assigned to his section of English Composition.
Tonight, the moments before his lecture
on writing the research paper unfold so slowly
he has almost forgotten the short winter day’s demand
for more grading and travel than his body can muster.
He has almost forgotten the blitz of snow that will land
against the classroom’s night windows
and then on his windshield the entire drowsy ride home
to his new apartment. Now he believes
he will sit beneath the chart of elements forever,
considering the combination of events that has brought him here--
the way one considers admixtures of acids and gasses.
How many years ago was it, he thinks to himself,
that I sat in a room like this one--
beakers of ancient, glowing liquids, Bunsen Burners
casting shadows of flames on the others’ faces?