Chemical Poems: Bismuth

Chemical Poems: Bismuth

Author: Mario Markus

To date, 118 chemical elements have been found. Professor Mario Markus, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, Germany, takes a look at each element, presenting a poem based on its natural properties along with a scientific overview of each element.

All 118 poems – as well as some poems about elements that only exist in theoretical simulations – are published in the book Chemical Poems: One On Each Element by Mario Markus. ChemViews Magazine publishes a selection of these poems.




Reddish-white metal. Density: 9.78 g/cm³. It was discovered around 1400 by an unknown alchemist. The name comes from old German Bisemutum, meaning “white mass”, which is a mineral now known to be bismuth oxychloride. In air, the surface of bismuth is covered with a yellow and blue iridescent sheen, due to the formation of a layer of oxide. Bismuth was incorporated by the Incas in bronze-like alloys [1], which were used for making knives.

Bismuth oxychloride is utilized for the “pearl effect” in cosmetics and cheap jewelry. Bismuth subgallate (“Devrom”) serves as “internal deodorant” neutralizing the odor of passed gas [2]. Other compounds are used to treat lupus erythematodes, which is an autoimmune disease, as well as against ulcers, asthma and syphilis [3]. The treatment with bismuth compounds may cause a dark ridge on the gums, due to bismuth sulfide deposits.

During solidification (the solid floating on the liquid state, analogously to ice on water) impressive crystals occur, having the shape of square spirals with steps, reminiscent of Mayan temples with a touch of science fiction [4].

[1] New Scientist 1984, 101 (1404), 20.

[2] M. Sparberg, Gastroenterology 1974, 66, 476–476.

[3] J. R. Lambert, Rev. Infect. Dis. 1991, 13, 5691–5695.

[4] S. Wolfram, “A New Kind of Science”, Wolfram Media Inc. 2002, 993.


Why they don’t smell,
the farts of Madame?
Who brushed her teeth
with eerie blackness?
Had she not syphilis,
lupus and asthma?
What kitschy angel
handed to her
iridescent pearls,
lipstick and nails?

is being transformed
into a pyramid
with steps and steep
and square-shaped
She crystallizes, full of Bismuth,
into a splendid,
of matter.




Professor Mario Markus, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, Germany.


Mario Markus Chemical Poems; one On Each Element

Chemical Poems – One On Each Element,

Mario Markus,

Dos Madres Press 2013.

ISBN: 978-1-933675-98-5

Perfectbound, 308 pages, English, $30


Interview with Mario Markus:   Poetry and Chemistry,
ChemistryViews 2013.

The poems have also been published in German in:


See all poems published so far by ChemViews Magazine.



Leave a Reply

Kindly review our community guidelines before leaving a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *