Studies in Aluminum III

This is part of a series I’m working on that looks at the history of aluminum, from its discovery as a metal to its mass production. The poems are connected loosely by their shared themes, but they don’t have to be read in any order.

This poem deals with Charles Martin Hall (1863-1914), the inventor of the Hall–Héroult Process, which was the first commercially viable process of getting pure aluminum. Hall used electrolysis to reduce alumina salts into aluminum. The process is still used today for mass production of aluminum. I use the –ium spelling in the poem, as that’s how it appears in Hall’s patents. As always, thanks for reading!


U.S. patent #400,664


Father used to accompany Mother

after choir practice as she returned

to Ladies’ Hall most afternoons

and they walked slower than grass grows

because he couldn’t come in with her

They called it the “Oberlin Step”

all the couples did it when

the campus became coed

Mother said their time in Jamaica

during Father’s Mission

he would bring her fresh fruit

every morning before she woke

for ten years, he would walk

to the nearest vendor, even climb

the tamarind trees himself, or bring

a half dozen june plums

in the hammock of his shirt tails

Perhaps Josephine and I

we could be in love like them

and live in a red-brick house

with a nice Italian porch

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