It’s orange here as morning’s light slips
through the juniper’s blackish branches—the sun is far.
What’s silverado I wonder and look it up but it’s not there,
though silvertongued is and so is quicksilver,
another word for mercury—now the sun is higher.
On the dictionary’s side, in pencil,
some boy wrote I LOVE CHANTEE.
Was his love the kind from afar or
had he kissed her the night before?
Who was the boy if a boy at all?
I examine the book for clues. Copyright 1973.
The computer screen and sky are blue—no matter
the story, it slips out from under. When I was 5,
I begged the dentist for mercury. He gave me
a small container. Then one day I got a fever,
saw mercury rise wild in a thermometer.
Afterwards it was mercury for me
right above mercy in the dictionary—mercury
messenger god, god of thievery.
Karen Chase lives, writes, and teaches in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. Her poems have appeared in many magazines, including The New Yorker, The New Republic, and The Yale Review. Her book of poems, Kazimierz Square, was short-listed for Best Indie Poetry Book of 2000, and her work has been included in major anthologies such as The Norton Introduction to Poetry and Billy Collins’s Poetry 180. She has been a Rockefeller Bellagio Fellow and a MacDowell Fellow. (updated 2004)