Marie Curie (a little solemn, a little proud, with dignity):
I take my life in measurements
obscure to other women:
neutrons, grams, experiments,
atom by atom, I portion it out.
In sorrow, time moves slowly.
The clock stands still for weepers.
Losses might have drowned me,
but I could not allow them.
I’ve never finished mourning,
but I know well that to be at half-life
is to begin to fade into nothing.
I learned mechanics and anatomy,
got trucks, x-rays, and radon to the front for
soldiers bloodied in ghastly fields—
[gestures at Irène Curie to include her in the “we” of the next line. IC sits up, still listening, nodding along as her mother lists their accomplishments in the war]
We treated more than a million wounded.
Engines and cars, tracks and stations.
Then mile after long American mile
raising funds for a single gram
of beautiful shimmering radium.
That radium is waiting for us
To save more lives