The Silicon Man

I saw a glowing silicon man
Within my chamber fire,
And heard him cry in agony
“More fuel, or I expire!”

So from the woodpile I brought in
Some pine and hickory,
And as I fed it to the flames
He straightway piped his eye.

“I am”, said he, “John Silicon,
And I am so constructed
That silicon’s my substitute;
My carbon’s all deducted.”

“My tissues, nerves, and viscera
Show this phenomenon:
That just as you of carbon are
I am of silicon.”

“In other features we’re the same
(More fuel! The coal flame twinges)
The point is that our molecules
Are different in their hinges!”

“At temperatures such as you know”
Said he, “We freeze. We turn
To consciousness again when you
Would sizzle up and burn.”

Now this peculiar silicon man
(The fire was bright as gold)
Seemed suffering, and so I gave
Him whiskey for his cold.
He liked it; said he never felt
So well as when he had
A taste of liquor on his tongue;
It was his little fad.

To make an ethyl silicohol
By substituting Si
For carbon in the alcohol.
(He called it Hades Rye.)

The Silicon Man drank more and more.
He grew full talkative,
And drank the substituted dram
As though he were a sieve.

He said he’d lived lo, many a year -
An old, old man was he
And yet he had not lived so much
Because, as you can see,

At ordinary temperature
His soul was frozen dead
And only resurrected when
The flames were blazing red.

“This life”, said he, “is not so bad,
When once you’re used to it:
To freeze whne’er the fire goes out
And waken when it’s lit.

“The orthodox concept of Hell
Is partly right”, said he
The heresy lies in the claim
That heat is misery.
“My needs”, said he, “are very few;
I want no meat or bread,
And if you feed the fire well
You’ll never find me dead.”
But when at last my bedtime came
I heard a painful shout:
It was a cry for silicohol
Just as the fire went out.


Everyman’s Chemistry, by Elwood Hendrick (Harper & Bros., N.Y., 1917)

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