Quin: Organic Lab

Safely distant from the Administration Building
stood a squat single-story stand-alone L-shaped hut of
bolted-together sheets of beige-painted rust-corrupted metal.

The L held a sophomore organic chemistry lab in its long part
advanced organic (the professor’s) lab in its short part
with a storeroom and lab assistant upper-serifed.

Professor Seiwald was all long parts — long arms and legs and hair
which fell black before his face looking down at lecture notes,
uttering long nasally “eeeeeehh”s as punctuation.

Four black-topped counter-cabinets formed a pair of “equals” signs
the length of the lab holding a congeries of reagent bottles,
Bunsen burner gas jets, water jets, and sinks.

Beneath the table tops were drawers enclosing burners and beakers
hoses and valves, Florence and Erlenmeyer flasks, Petri plates,
lab books, note books and incomplete experiments.

Quin and I established ourselves side by side inside the equals sign
farthest from the assistant’s storeroom and his supervision
where we could also keep an eye on Seiwald’s lab.

Across from us was serious Robin Lew (Lobin Rew, boy scientist)
who hosed our books once by mistake so we burned his
or rather tricked him into charring them by mistake.

My first experiment produced something professionally identified as
“eeeeeehh some kind of eeeeeehh white crud” and afterwards
Quin and I “eeeeeehh”-ed almost everything we said.

When everyone, even the lab assistant, ran outside without mention
of the fire raging among the bottles on the table behind us
Quin and I suddenly saw Seiwald play fireman.

One day I noticed what looked like heat-waves above a counter-top
coming from an open ether bottle, headed for an open flame;
connection would have caused a very hot explosion. 

Our fall term final took most of us two weeks (some never finished)
transforming benzene (C6H6) into sulfanilamide (C6H8N2SO2)
an early cure for syphilis (or was it gonorrhea?)

You learn a lot sitting around a chem lab all night:   there’s gossip
over blue cheese and bourbon, plus the chance that a drop
of chlorosulphonic acid might eat through your hand.

One sunny afternoon they carried the corpse of a graduate student
from Seiwald’s lab;  he had earlier blown his face off by
not working safely with nitro-fur-fur-al'-de-hyde.

One night they discovered the corpse of my former roommate Mike
in the storeroom;  he had inhaled enough poisonous chemicals
to avoid hearing his label: homo,  ho-mo-sex'-u-al.