We discovered my uncle’s chemistry set
in a shelve recess above a water heater

covered in minerals cascading from the top
sparkling like a fountain of white volcanic lava.

Cracking open metal caps of chemicals
rusted from damp basement storage,

we took boric acid salt, mixed it with water
stirred our concoction biting our tongues

warmed the potion with a Bunsen burner
slowly, carefully and began a Willow Glen project.

We bent a handful of Grandpa’s soft bristle
pipe cleaners into geometric shapes, submerged them

twenty-four hours—maybe more, plenty of time
for fragile borax crystals to form quartz- like silica.

Like ore-heavy Mantello booby traps, our handiwork
littered neighborhood aggregate pathways like punji sticks

crunching and exploding, white powder would
cling to leather souls, tennis shoes & high heels

left indelible footprints, traced traffic that crossed our
grandparents’ welcome pad and immaculate doorway.

when Grandpa asked his pipe cleaner whereabouts we lied
feigned innocence to the chalky mess dusting the floor.

Grandma knew better; she lent us the ice tray to douse
wiry shapes, pull Grandpa’s chain, rock our experiments!