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The alchemists.

By day they bent over lead's heavy spirit of illness, asking it to be gold, the lord from humble beginnings. And the mad soul of mercury fell through their hands through settled floors and came to rest silver and deadly in a hidden corner where it would grow. Gold was the property that could take sickness out from lead. It was fire held still. At night they lifted the glass of black grapes and sugar to their lips and drank the flaked gold suspended in wine like sparks of fire, then watched it fall like fool's gold to the bottom of a pond. Yesterday, my father behind a curtain in the sick ward heard a doctor tell a man where the knife would cut flesh. Listen, my father said, that man is saying a poem. No, he's telling a story. No, I believe he is reading from a magical book. But he was only a man talking to iron, willing it to be gold. If it had worked we would kneel down before it and live forever, all base metals in ceremonial fire.
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Author:Hogan, Linda
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:May 1, 1993
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