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Interrogating Water (Salmon, 2014)

title poem:

Interrogating Water
By Philip Fried

Imagine you are interrogating water,
coercing the hydrogen and oxygen
to violate their bonds, give up each other.

Water, a non-state actor,
flows secretly over borders,
precipitates, infiltrates,
gathers in pools, conspires
with bacteria and mosquitoes

You can perform this at home with simple materials.
All you need is a battery, two no. 2 pencils,
salt, thin cardboard, electrical wire, a glass …

Foe of stability,
it erodes in drizzles,
revolts in tsunamis, riots
in floods, and from covert puddles
takes part in uprisings

… of water. Sharpen the pencils at both ends.
Cut the cardboard to fit over the glass.
Insert the pencils in cardboard, an inch apart.

Claims transparency
but under every skin
is another, while fluid rib
over rib will hide the atomic
truth in a wavering cage

Using the wires, connect the tips of each pencil
to opposite poles of the battery, then place
the other ends of the pencils into the water.

Excitable even in teacups
its sloshing shifting mass
can menace levees and dams
heave at the ocean’s crust
subverting the Earth’s rotation

The molecules will confess in tiny bubbles
of hydrogen and chlorine gas, at the pencil
tips, chlorine masking the fugitive oxygen.