NaPoWriMo:Alchemy in Reverse



Alchemists from ancient times

using magic, fledgling science,

attempt to turn base metals into gold,

a noble metal, prized above all,

used for good and used for hate

but sometimes gold must not be found.


Boots marching through the street

Left, right, an echoing beat


Noble gold, Nobel medals

in Copenhagen’s streets the brightness vanishes,

yet goodness shines, the yellow stars do not appear

stars, not of twinkling beauty, but black holes of despair

In Bohr’s lab though, science triumphs over hate.

George de Hevesy and chemistry, transformation with aqua regia–

Nobel metals slowly liquefied, placed up high, inside a flask

though the boots come marching, leaving wreckage in their wake.


Boots marching through the street

Left, right, an echoing beat


And so guns, war, and people dying

death and destruction, and gold in hiding

V-E Day comes not too soon

De Hevesy reverses his steps, no magic rune,

just chemistry. Truth. He sends the gold to be restored.

Nobel medals found again, alchemy reversed, justice scored.


Boots marching through the street

Left, right, an echoing beat


NaPoWriMo, Day 26. The challenge was to write a call and refrain. I wrote a refrain, in a bop poem. I wanted to try this form after I read Jennifer Knoblock’s  bop poem here. I been fascinated by this story of the dissolved Nobel Prize medals for some time.

Danish authorities refused to cooperate with the Nazis, and violence against and deportations of Jews did not take place there until 1943. Even then, many Jews were rescued in a huge operation.  You can read more here.




8 thoughts on “NaPoWriMo:Alchemy in Reverse

  1. Nice to learn there was a Government with a conscience from the start that didn’t co-operate with the Nazis. I was always happy to read of the courage of so many individuals in the occupied countries who did their best to shelter Jews but was shocked that their Governments actually co-operated in murder.
    I can’t believe there are so many holocaust deniers and such an increase in the far right in politics again in Europe. People should be ashamed of themselves.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • Thanks so much, David. There’s a story that the King of Denmark wore a yellow Star of David, but it’s not true. However, it’s sort of true in spirit. Hugs back to you!

  2. I love the combination of history, science, and poetry. I also really like the idea of call and refrain…so many songs in that form. It’s the basis of the blues. Not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, but it’s a good prompt. Also–great illustration. (K)

    • Thanks, K. I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but I couldn’t quite find the format. Not exactly a call and response, but I got the refrain in the bop poem. 🙂

  3. Great bop! I love the tension you create with your refrain. The idea of alchemy in reverse is fascinating on its own, but layered with all kinds of meanings and associations in your poem. I have been intending to read more on this dissolving of the Nobel medals since I saw a blurb about it in the NPR headlines.

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