Marie Curie works the pitchblende.
In her hands it turns to radium.
In her life she looks for extractions
—the pulling of one thing from another—
unraveling that intermingled web
to see the directions
which never were enclosed;
to find the cures
which turn out to be, after all,
with brand new illnesses.
Her husband’s skull is crushed
in one moment,
giving her little to care about.
She starts then to become a scandal.
She knows then she deserves
more than one prize.
The lover’s wife still
pursues her through alleys,
these twists of a life
that could not be still.
Afternoon with willow branch.
The daughter would have painted that.
But radium bleaches the bones eventually.
The dried hair crumbles.
are never harmless,
emitting the future:
the brittle nails,
Published in our August Issue
“Maman, I want to join the Nazi Party.”
Imagine her surprise. But being a reasonable, bien élevée young lady who sorely missed her dead husband, she tried to take the reasonable approach. She wheedled. Her gangly model schoolboy was only fifteen.
“But, Hubert, you can’t join the Nazi Party.”
“Why not, Maman?”
“Because, Hubert, you’re Jewish.”
Well! You could have knocked him over with a feather! You never know where you’re at. You’re growing up in a perfectly sound Anglican family because your father has converted from his perfectly nominal Lutheran tradition to marry into your maman’s perfectly nominal Anglican tradition, which is all comme il faut in this day and age. It was a complicated family. Your mother’s father, a WASP as the braid on his shoulder proclaimed, had been a military attaché to the American Council in St. Petersberg, before the Revolution tacked the red flag to the nose of the Romanovs, and had performed additional duties that even in that halcyon time had to remain unspecified.
It was there, behind the facade of the frozen palazzo, watching through the night as a young girl the faces behind the candles, that she had acquired a taste for the icons, which she bequeathed to her Hubert. “Mother of God,” those long January nights she would whisper, “Mother of God.” With the Party underway at the Winter Palace, she was passing through Germany when she met your father, an adroit dealer in fabrics. You’re a touch precious now; in the gymnasium they’re all joining the Nazi Party, in a perfectly nominal fashion. If you were in America you would join the boy scouts and go camping. But you know if you’re Jewish that’s that. That puts the kibosh on camping and singing “Du, du liegst mir im Herzen” around the campfires above Heidelberg. “Die Fahnen Hoch” will never soar above you.
It calls for a radical career change.
Our August issue is out tomorrow. It’s going to be really rad. We’re publishing our very first musical submission. Plus all that other good stuff ya’ll like so much. You know, poetry, photography, wacky tales of sinister KGB agents. The stuff you’re used to.