Self Portrait con Valencia

In ninth grade I discovered chemistry—

intrigued by sodium, the soft metals
…………………………and all those
cliquey elementos that bonded so facilito

the ones that stuck together
while I floated             in a corner       like helium
invisible, less noble
……………………….my constant struggle

to reach a stable state

Expected to memorize every single name
I carried la tabla periódica in my back pocket
my gringa lips loving a challenge

repeating each element’s name in Spanish,
sequenced, according to its atomic number
that social value I figured out

holds everyone’s place at the table
my tongue whispered their names to my brain
litio, sodio, potassio, rubidio

each grouped by their capacity to connect
and I, xenón wondered about my own valence
still not confident with my…

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