Survey North of 60 degrees
We're here to cast off names -
Viking, Fair Isle, Faeroes,
pronounce drowned coves, remap the coast.
I'm troubled - not at the cliff's seaward shiver
or the guillemots' black beaks scissored and shrieking -
but the wind singing
one long low note
its worm-burrow to the heart of the Arctic.
Late, in your hotel room, we nip at a bottle of Absolut,
talk of tongues of ice repealing themselves:
Novaya Zemlya, Svalbard, Barents.
I don't mention the wind tunnelling me
like the wisteria that arched the path
from the park to my childhood home
where I'd sneak a smoke
to inhale the boy I thought I loved
before I knew what love was;
snow-quiet, might, obliterative,
to be able to sit at the world' end
and say little of it.
Encountered at Alphabet of Our Universe, part social history lecture, part poetry reading, at the Royal Society of Chemistry during the "Courtyard Late" at Burlington House on 15 July - the postcard is a good reminder. The "Y" stamp refers to one of the elements whose history was brought to light in the lecture; fascinating.
Rachel's poetry is inspired by "hardcore" chemistry; she is also a climate scientist. Her first pamphlet, Element, is available now.