"What Happens to a Cyanide Molecule?"

John Dolan
Department of English
University of Otago
New Zealand

Deep South v.1 n.2 (May, 1995)

Copyright (c) 1995 by John Dolan, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the New Zealand Copyright Act 1962. It may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the journal is notified. This consent does not extend to other kinds of copying, such as copying for general distribution, for advertising or promotional purposes, for creating new collective works, or for resale. For such uses, written permission of the author and the notification of the journal are required. Write to Deep South, Department of English, University of Otago, P. O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.

What Happens to a Cyanide Molecule?
A Ballet

Principal Dancers:
*A cyanide molecule on the tip of a bullet which has passed 
	through the torso of Marcus Foster, former head of 
	the Oakland, California School District
*A piece of said Foster, under study at the Coroner's Office
*A Postgrad Inquisitor

"Death to the fascist insect that preys on the life of the people!"
They said and shot the school superintendent.
With cyanide tips. Not that that mattered;
Five in the chest--wood would've worked
At that rate, and at that caliber
It went through too fast to smear any cyanide
Molecule-shrubs in his wigwam ribcage.
So this is the question: What happens
To one of these cyanide molecules? A wholly healthy
Literal, deftly revolving molecule of cyanide
On the tip of a bullet expressed through a superintendent
Of schools? What actually happens,
In subatomic terms, at the end of the ride?
--When the bullet, still streaming superintendent,
Takes a potshard off that pink stucco apartment wall
And wakes on the sidewalk,
Seeing birdies--no pix of the trip;
What does the still virgin cyanide molecule
Do, where does she--sorry, "it"--go afterwards?
What kind of career can she have? Let us go down
Into Lowland, Littleland, Nanoland,
Quark forest-- where our dazzling shrub Cyanide twirls
Solo, virgin, swirls singing to herself--itself
Swirling and singing and all alone. They knock on the door.
They say, "Excuse me, we're a few molecules hired by 
The subcontracter--to make a long story short
We're here to bond with you and die
In a particular chemoprint, so the lab boys
Can tell the press it's you on the bullets.
Sorry Ma'am; business." They grope to her
Squeaking in rubber suits with NASA patches.
They grab for her--She dances on!
She doesn't hear them. No--say She hears them
And won't react. No--she, they, they
Can't touch her, their bottom-quark fingers
Can't close on her--

Wait--why "she"? What's that about?

I don't know--but if that's what you're getting at,
Forget it. I grew up in Berkeley,
I was weaned on seminars while you
Were getting high to Journey tapes, you poser wimp
--You think I survived fifteen years at Berkeley
By falling for simple gendered-pronoun traps?
She's a genderless fiction,
Strictly platonic.

So it's just one of those movies about making movies, mere 

No it isn't! Don't say that! This has a plot--

 Which is. . . ?

She dances, I don't know the word,
French, dances--Black room, white gown--

You stole that from Celine.


So you admit it. Tell me--why Cyanide?

Well. That I admit. Yup. I'm a hater.
A hater from way back. Nietzsche--
He was right about so much, but
He must, he must've been wrong on that,
Saying all those bad things about hatred--

So you admit it? Fred--Yo, Fred!

Door opens. "Fred" Nietzsche comes in,
Gives that surfer hand-sign--
I always thought he'd like me, but he
Rips the powerbook out of my hands--
She chuckles, towelling off slowly
After dance practice, leaning
On the mirrored wall. I can't look
But I know she's smiling. I know
That smile. He tosses my powerbook
Into a corner . . . a corner with spiders.
Fyodor, will, perhaps, if Freidrich won't--"Fedya!
Fedya, help me, please! Help a Russian soldier!"
No answer. No Fedya. No nothing. Laughter.
Fred and Freida leave together. She's got
A ponytail, he's got
A ponytail--No!

Spinning White Thornbush, turn for me now!
Swirling shrub molecule, turn for me now!
Sing solo, uncatalysed, lone on your bright stage,
Lone in the Lowlands,
Whirl safe, sing genderless, unpronounced molecule--
Exempt, immune to interdiss puns!
No barium traces or pop etymology
Can touch you, my Precious, my Pentecost flame pet!
See? They douse you with pronoun-indictments;
You flare the papers in their hands!
You wait, await one, one merest touch
From one least atom of shot superintendent
Twirling down through the thin branches
Of Earth's three-stem air! It has not fallen
Yet. We wait. We wait. Yes! Now,
When all tests have failed, a lab man
On his way wifeward, a Livemore man,
Knocks a piece of school corpse off the slide
And it falls---
It falls--

NOW she arches up to meet the scrap of deadman descending--
NOW the room bursts and the scientists in their bunker
Are burnt up and screaming, suddenly wearing
Sunglasses, "wraparound"--wraparound
Sunglasses made of burnt face!
NOW the papergivers, so clever, so thin--
NOW they are shrieking,
Are screaming "It's real!"
Testify, brethren! Testifying by shriek,
They die into puddles, they dance in their torment,
Hair-poodle ponytails melting, on fire--
NOW see her glory--those paintings of Pentecost, flame
Riding every sainted head--see how she straddles
Each burning ponytail, a sterner Pentecost!
--Which when their screams and caperings are done
Has melted all the clever
From our smoking tenured heads, amen.
One can but say, with the SLA,

"Death to the fascist insect which preys upon the life of 
the people."

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