Prince Rupert’s Drop (1999)

Jane Draycott

The rapid cooling of this extraordinary glass drop leaves it in a state of enormous tension…

It’s brilliant. It’s a tear you can stand a car

on, the hard eye of a chandelier
ready to break down and cry like a baby, a rare
birth, cooled before its time. It’s an ear
of glass accidentally sown in the coldest of water,
that sheer drop, rock solid except for the tail
or neck which will snap like sugar, kick like a mortar
under the surefire touch of your fingernail.

It’s the pearl in a will-o’-the-wisp, the lantern asleep
in the ice, the light of St Elmo’s fire in your eyes.
It’s the roulette burst of a necklace, the snap
of bones in an icicle’s finger, the snip of your pliers
at the neck of my heart, the fingertip working the spot
which says ‘you are here’ until you are suddenly not.

Learn more about the language of this poem in the
Oxford English Dictionary:

will-o'-the-wisp  St. Elmo's [St. Elmo]  Prince Rupert