The Adolescent Litmus Test
John Davis Jr.

“Today, class, we will learn how spies used
simple household lemon juice as a method
to invisibly transfer information to their allies,
and how this technique worked.”
—Mr. Potter’s 6th grade science class lecture


You had to have heat
to expose what I meant
through innocent, invisible
ink notes passed, penetrating
an upward-slanting locker vent,
or tucked into your waiting purse,
slipped from the zipper of my
bookbag’s pen-swollen pocket.

Junior high’s bittersweet period
sullied our prior years of friendship.
My mind's eye watched your naked
light bulb or candle flame warming
platonic lemon juice letters—
“Meet me by bike rack” or
“Lunch room food sux” became
burning anthems of things bigger,
deeper than acid-based lab tricks
infusing biology
with natural chemistry.