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Poetry

Your tasklist for a limestone road cut east of Emporia on Old Highway 50

From the LabLit science verse series

Dan Paquette 6 May 2013

www.lablit.com/article/774

1. Let’s stop and lay asters on the rocks,
pay our respects to the remains of sea life
transformed into calcium carbonate blocks
bedded in goldenrod, rough-leaf and sumac.

2. Cheer on the ants climbing a rock face formed
at a time when our sun cruised higher overhead,
sun blazing hot on what was then a shallow sea.
Seek shade in the nearby giant horsetail swamps.

3. Pick up an ice cube-sized chunk of limestone,
about 100 grams, around three and a half ounces:

“100”, coincidentally, the sum of the atomic weight
of the atoms in a molecule of calcium carbonate

so that the number of these CaCO3 molecules
will approximate Avogadro’s number: 6.02 x 10²³,

or think of it as six hundred two billion
and then tack on twelve more zeros.

Imagine a case where every molecule in this chunk
of rock is itself the size of an ice cube:

4. Shape the cubes into a solid cylinder covering Kansas
and beyond — the edges nudging South Bend, Indiana;
Waco, Texas; Grand Forks, North Dakota and Montrose,
Colorado. The cubes begin to run out as the tower rises

to eleven or twelve thousand miles, the earth resembling
a planetary Tootsie Roll Pop®. Impurities of aluminum,
iron, magnesium, and silicon are in sufficient quantities
to form a thin earth wrapper to cover your secret snack.

5. After you conclude construction, return to this quiet place.
Disassemble and discard the rocks responsibly.