For Marie Sklodowska Curie.

Strange comfort, the moon.
Shining down on the towers and the ditches,
on the judges and the judged alike,
dragging the tides with it.
Marie kept radium salts in a glass vial
on a wooden stand by her bed.
At night she lay blinking at it
and slipped out of time,
the tyranny of memory.

She forgot about Pierre
with his magnets and bicycles,
the meticulous hours together
in their makeshift laboratory,
grinding pitchblende to uncover
the concealed,
she forgot about Pierre,
slipping on a rain-slick Rue Dauphin,
his skull burst beneath the wheels
of a horse-drawn carriage.
She forgot her mother
making shoes, singing,
her uncle arriving, the sound of him
coughing at night, the blood
on the handkerchief
hastily pocketed,
death smuggled into the house,
breaching the walls,
silencing the song forever.

She forgot the war,
travelling the frontlines
with her X-ray machine
under artillery fire,
the maps of splintered
shrieking bone,
each unique,
Żorawski’s face
as they left one another,
her father’s glass case,
winter in the Latin Quarter garret,
the words of Appell
in the lecture hall years ago
that opened her mind like a hinge,
“I take the sun…
… and I throw it.”

Spellbound she lay
in the azure half-light,
that made her think, that stopped her thinking,
cerulean isotope glow,
precious as it was
poisoning her with each atomic second,
turning her bones to chalk,
her blood to rust.

Her papers, even her cookery book,
are still so radioactive,
they are kept locked in a lead box
and visitors require
a protective suit to view them.
Her bones are glowing still,
a half-life as long as Christianity.

She was alive once as we were
and she lay on her side.
A droplet of the moon by her sleepless bed,
the dark of her room planetary.

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