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Deirdre Lockwood



I have no dress except the one I wear every day. If you are going to be kind enough to give me one, please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterwards to go to the laboratory. —Marie Curie, on a proposed gift of a wedding dress

After all these years I will not wear
the gloves and coat, forget safety

glasses, there's an elegance to pouring
unprotected. Even the summer

I lost every mosquito bite
to the nitric bath, I felt grateful

to have been etched clean as glass.
Nothing known can threaten here,

not poisons making themselves beautiful:
crystal violet, amaretto-scented azide,

mercuric chloride incarnadine.
This was sanctuary, graduated

by the keen meniscus, calculations
checked and checked again.

I liked that it left you out:
no trace under the hood, the waste

of charcoaled beakers and sulfuric acid
as I came and went each night

forgetting my clothes, the soles
of my shoes, my fingertips to bread

and bread to lips until that day
I turned the geiger on: the SOUND.



Know I am sincere
as Martha and Mary ever were

Lord, if you had been here
though we do not know,

says Socrates, that what we go to
is a lesser good. At that

our science loses frequency.
We can examine the body

once again returned to ground
among the nails they buried here.

Occam says an afterlife
is too much lace around the neck

and you, you told me
if you believe

we are more than bags
of chemicals you should not be here.

That was Introduction to Biochemistry,
or the hospital.





 "Spill" germinated (decayed?) from the ruby-slipper-like "radioactive shoes" a labmate once kept in her locker, the dosimetry badge I wore clipped to my lab coat like a brooch and Lavinia Greenlaw's poems "The Innocence of Radium" and "A Letter From Marie Curie" (from her wonderful book Night Photograph). The epigraph is from Madame Curie: A Biography (1937) by Eve Curie Labouisse, translated by Vincent Sheean. "Lazarus" echoes Martha's statement to Jesus in John 11:21: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."