The Last Science Lecture

written by © Peter Howard
first published (in modified form) in The Rialto 1996, then in collection Weighing The Air

Electricity is a thin blue liquid, faintly luminous,
concentrated in lightning, as anybody knows.
Heat is a sticky jam, attracting wasps,
warping vision, magnifying noise and smell.
Gravity is the overprotective mother
of all maternal instincts.

Space is indelible ink, staining a star-pricked cloth;
flight, therefore, is clearly impossible.
No-one is going to tell me
that the preferred state of string
is not to be knotted, or that,
with a microscope balanced
on the chimney stack you can't see threads
of TV pictures being sucked in.

Briefly, for we have little time left:
fire is a primitive form of life,
cold is an animal with many teeth,
magnetism is the politics of demons,
lead occurs naturally in rice pudding,
and gold melts in your mouth like butterscotch.

Finally, I would remind you that
guineas fall faster than feathers,
and always have done.