Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Mughal style, "Girl luring quicksilver from a mine
with her beauty
," mid-18th century

The Hsin Hsiu Pen Tsao laid the groundwork—
silver and tin—but it wasn’t until alchemists
turned the flame up on cinnabar, condensing
its exhalation into Shui Yin, quicksilver, that
the formulary for amalgam changed. And it
wasn’t until I was seven that I’d chase those
mercurial fascinations around with my finger.
They were slick as tiny fish, hatchling minnows
schooling on a desk in my dad’s dental office,
some so small they could hide behind a fallen
eyelash. I didn’t know they were poison, but
neither did the Chinese alchemists, who had
no one to scold them when they tipped their
treatises with quicksilver, having chased the
bright liquid metal into its glass bedchamber.

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