Radium Girls

Gwydion Miller

Geraldine, Tara Piscatelli

I’m thinking about those girls again—
       the ones who painted watch faces to glow in the dark
    tapering radium-tipped paintbrushes with their lips.
  Some of them, the creative ones,
                      thought a touch of workplace theft to be a small enough risk
            and went out to the dimly-lit clubs sparking,
     flashing smiles that glowed like atom bombs to the worthy boys.

They couldn’t feel the radiation, sucked in like gin through their painted teeth.
                                                Should we?


I’m thinking about it again, about that
          soft-wired instinct to settle in for the long stability
                    once the youth’s gone stagnant, dried up.

                                                      It’s been, so it’ll be;
                 (even the crusty old punks in their tattoo shops had to bend to it)
            but ‘till then must it feel so childlike to keep on sparking;
                    to dance frantic in the downtown bars
                    no sight of sunlight, no drink too strong?
              Is it naive (and it might be) to drown our tongues in radioactive mania;
                               to take these senseless hours, put them on their side—
                                          spread them like a deck of cards
                              and see if they’ll stretch out, on and on and on into forever
                   till our geiger-counter hearts burn out?

About the Author

Gwydion Miller · Le Moyne College

Gwydion Miller is a writer, poet, and avowed Hyena enthusiast from upstate New York. They promise that they’ll get a novel out sometime, but it’s not looking likely just yet. This piece first appeared in Salamander.

About the Artist

Tara Piscatelli · Temple University

A former biochemistry student, Tara Piscatelli attended Temple University when her work was published. This piece was first featured in plain china in 2018.

No Comments

Leave a Reply