Element 83

I am a tender thing amidst poisons.

Iridescent, my blue flames
and my yellow smokes. Though I welcome
whatever the light can find,

when I enter your body
I can always read its beauty,
even with the lights off.

You will encounter me
as twice as often in the earth
as gold.

No. I am abundant.


“Helium, element two, has […] tremendous independence, because it
doesn’t need to interact with other atoms or share or steal electrons to
feel satisfied. Helium has found its erotic complement in itself.”

–Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon: and other true tales of madness, love, and the history of the world from the periodic table of elements

I wrap my arms around
my circumference and am
wholly content.
I serenade myself
with strange, circular
instruments; I toss
myself peonies on the edge
of bloom in reward.
I am never more than inches
from the warm fortune
of my lady’s thighs,
of which there will
never be enough.
At any given moment
her fingers are stirring
music from my hair.
Think of a bubble that rises
endlessly, limitlessly
through the sky. I lift
without burning away.


Green Dress

“…our fair charmers in green whirl through the giddy waltz actually in a cloud
of arsenical dust. Twenty yards […] are required for the modern female dress, and
twenty yards of green tartalane would carry about 900 grains of white arsenic.”

British Medical Journal, Feb. 5, 1862

We prefer beauty
with a body count.

The apple she offers is green.
We love to sing along
with its sour music.

She draws
long scarves of water

and blood out
of our mouths.

You’re either dead
by the poison
the world chooses

for you, or by the one
you choose for yourself.

We breathe our last
under the green
zenith of her skirts.

NICKY BEER is a bi/queer poet, author of Real Phonies and Genuine Fakes (forthcoming from Milkweed 2022), as well as The Octopus Game and The Diminishing House (Carnegie Mellon UP), both winners of the Colorado Book Award for poetry. Her awards also include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a MacDowell Fellowship, a fellowship and a scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a Mary Wood Fellowship. She is an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver, where she is a poetry editor for the journal Copper Nickel.