Stopping by bromine

Today Jon Scieszka, author of “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales,” visited our writing workshop class. We did an in-class exercise in which we had to write a poem about an element from the period table based off Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

I decided to write mine on bromine, specifically highlighting research from the past year suggesting that bromine, once thought to be relatively biologically useless, might actually be a trace element essential to our tissue development.

Here it is:

Which element is this I do not know,
Its neighbors are more common though.
It’s really rare in our Earth’s crust,
But in the ocean it does flow.

At room temp, a fluid red-brown,
In nature, it’s in salts, locked down.
We mine it for flame retardants,
So grab some, and make your flames drown!

Its name means “stench,” or a “strong smell.”
Though our common use of it fell
When we learned that it kills ozone,
It’s still in photo films, oh well.

Till now we’ve thought we need zero,
It seems our tissues use it, though,
So bromine would you help me grow…
So bromine would you help me grow.

For reference, this exercise was based on a parody poem Jon wrote himself, entitled “Astronaut stopping by a planet on a snowy evening:”

Which world this is I do not know.
It’s in our solar system though.
I’m thinking that it might be Mars,
Because it has that reddish glow.

But you know it could be Venus.
And if that’s true, then just between us,
It might be wise to leave before
Any locals might have seen us.

Could be Pluto. Might be Neptune.
Don’t they both have more than one moon?
I’m running out of oxygen.
I’d better figure this out soon.

Yes space is lovely, dark and deep.
For one mistake I now do weep:
In science class I was asleep.
In science class I was asleep…

* “‘Astronaut Stopping by a Planet on a Snowy Evening’ definitely reminds me of a poem by Robert Frost (1874-1963). Not ‘Mending Wall.’ Not ‘Fire and Ice.’ More like ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.’”

Image: Wikimedia Commons / User DePiep

P.S. For a neat bromine-related lesson, check out this CreatureCast video about a dye called Tyrian purple, from Nina Ruelle! The dye is a bromine-containing organic compound produced by a sea snail called Bolinus brandaris.


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