‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

(This reprint is from the front cover of Chem 13 News, December 1995. This clever poem came to us from Fiona Walker of North Vancouver BC, via Tony Anderson, our colleague in the Physics Department at UW. Fiona does not recall where she found it. If you know the source, please write and tell us. We asked this 20 years ago and we were not able to track down the author.)

‘Twas the night before Christmas,

The lab was quite still.

Not a Bunsen was burning

Nor had they the will.

The test tubes were placed

In their racks with great care,

In hopes that Father Chemistry

Soon would be there.

The students were sleeping,

So sound in their dorms,

And dreaming of fluids

In crystalline forms.

Lab aides in their aprons

And I in my smock,

Were sitting, recov’ring

From the semester shock.

When outside the lab

There arose such a roar,

I leapt from my stool

And fell flat on the floor.

Out to the fire escape

All of us flew.

What was the commotion?

Not one of them knew.

The flood lights shone out

O’er the campus so bright.

It looked like Old Stockholm

On Nobel Prize night.

My fume-blinded eyes

Then viewed (dare I say?)

Eight anions pulling

A water trough sleigh.

And holding the bonds

Tied to each one of them

Was a figure I knew

As our own Papa Chem.

With speeds in excess

Of most X-rays they came;

As they dopplered along,

He called each one by name.

“Now Nitrate, now Phosphate,

Now Borate, Now Chloride,

On Citrate, on Bromate,

On Sulfide, and Oxide.

Forget what you know

Of that randomness stuff.

Let’s go straight to that roof

If you’ve got quanta enough”.

Just a microsec later

Electroscopes showed

Charged particles coming

To our lab abode.

We raced back inside

And what do you think?

Down the fume-hood Pop Chem fell

Right into the sink.

He was dressed in a lab coat,

Quite ragged and old,

With removable buttons,

The style, we were told.

A tray full of beakers

He clutched to his heart

And under his arm

Was an orbital chart.

His eyes through his goggles

I just couldn’t see

His hands were all yellow

From H-N-O-3.

His head was quite bald

With a fringe all around,

Like a ring test for iron

That same shade of brown.

He was thin as a match

And not terribly tall.

He wasn’t the type

I’d expected at all.

But a look at his clothes

In the lab’s harsh white light,

With their acid-burn holes,

He’s a Chemist all right.

He didn’t say much,

He had no time to kill;

He filled all the test tubes

With nary a spill.

Then placing them back

On the benches with care,

He dashed to the fume-hood

And rose through the air.

He called to his team

And his ions took off.

And Kinetics took care

Of Pop Chem and his trough.

But I heard him cry out

As he flew down the street.

“Merry Christmas to all!

May your stockrooms stay neat!”