Penny Shutt




Covalent Bonding 


In the end I couldn’t compete

with the intermolecular pull that drew you to her.


Me, the less reactive one – bookish, inert,

our bond replaced by her sizzling reactivity.

The day I overheard in the common room

that the reaction had occurred, that’s when I knew

I had been displaced, that your inner shell

now brimmed with stability.


I failed chemistry that year.

She was in lower Sixth

and from the back row of the re-sits

I watched the outline of her flimsy bra strap

undulate across her shoulder blades

as she leaned in close to the desk,

and I tried not to imagine how familiar

you now found her otherness.


Even your names possessed a hidden consonance,

as though your fates were held suspended somehow

in molecular design. 
A force stronger than us both

let you take those atoms from me

and give them to her,

leaving my one remaining electron

quaking in its outer shell.



Dr. Penny Shutt is a poet and psychiatrist who writes in secret in between patients on her NHS laptop and runs poetry therapy workshops in her spare time. Some of her poems can be found at and she tweets @drpennyshutt.

Comments are closed.