Chlorine poem by Janet Kuypers

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Chlorine

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

My dad ran a construction company,
and after he built our house, he used concrete
from an extra job to build a swimming pool
in our back yard. My brother even got a diving
college scholarship, so I guess the pool
came in handy.

Every summer, after cleaning the pool,
filling it with water and adding the right amount
of Chlorine, my neighbor and best friend
would come ove and pay in the chemically clean
pool with me daily. We’d even play
“Bottom Bump”, where we’d hold our breaths
to save us from the Chlorine, and we’d hold hands
and start doing flips underwater together
until we’d end up injuring ourselves
and have to come up for air. Even as a toddler,
because I was just a child and I had this mortal fear
of falling backwards into the deep end,
my sister would have to re-teach me every year
how to back dive into the Chlorine pool.

But now that my dad lives in the retirement
community he started in Florida years ago,
I visit him when I have the time during
the cold Chicago winters, and sit by the pool
they built right across the street from his house.
The Chlorine in that pool actually smells good
when you want relief from the hundred degree heat,
even if the pool is almost eighty degrees itself.

But of course the Chlorine would smell good,
when Chlorine is even used in drinking water.

And it’s funny that we use Chlorine in pools
while Chlorine is mostly found a a Chloride ion
in salt, that it’s found in the earth as well as
in oceans, like the Dead Sea.

Chlorine ions are in the Dead Sea,
and Chlorinated pools can save us from the heat.

But too much Chlorine in the water
is a bad thing, and if you don’t know that
from sniffing the bottle of Chlorine
before it’s poured into a swimming pool,
then know that as a gas, this element
was even used as a weapon in World War Two.
The Germans even used these “Bertholite” bombs
(which smelled like pepper and pineapple, actually),
and Chlorine bombs were even used in the Iraq War
(though the physical force of the bomb
may have been more devastating than the gas).

Because yeah, Chlorine is bad for the
respiratory system, but that’s how we learned
that in the right amounts, Chlorine can kill
the bad-for-you bacteria and gross germs
living in your drinking water, and Chlorine can kill
what can grow into something much worse for you
while stewing in a stagnant swimming pool.