Marie Curie records in her notebook

They recoil
from grainy footage of me in my laboratory,
my slow somber dance
amongst the shallow watchglass dishes;
it is the set of my lips: a permanent grymas,
something bleak they see growing in themselves.
Forged amongst the test-tubes and uranium, I ignore
the dark-paneled rooms,
which burst with dark-panel-suited men.
My attempts at warding off their idiotyzm= isotropes
stashed in my pockets as charms;
a lesson here they should learn, only just now discovering
that lead is preferable to lollies.

They dream of the x-ray machines I made for inwards exploration,
think psychology is the answer.
Nie! What about the question?
Their angels are Jung’s apostles with talk of [1 psychic nuclei] swimming in [2 ambient oceans of unconscious].
Mine are Polonium [84 Po] and her unstable sisters
given to me by the Stara Baba,
compensation for
my husband’s crushed bones.

Consider matter and soul.
They hope to arrive at numinous truths about ‘quiet,’
haphazardly jotted down as ‘life.’ Never mind.
I would not rinse away any scribblings
emanating from their challeng{-ing/-ed} shadows.
Even with scant knowledge of them
every atom could be as elegant (as transmuting)
as alchemists’ translations of light.

Anita Mortlock


Anita Mortlock lives on the coast of Kāpiti, New Zealand, a place that often supports and informs her identity and writing. She has previously published in several academic and poetry journals.

© 2021