Colin Cheney

Stabat Mater (Marie Curie’s Pitchblende)

Like flash bulb, maybe a firefly,
she felt herself flare & then dim, & then waited
for the surge of matter

she had no means to measure in her gut.


Glass ceiling but no visible stars, intimation of leaves.


On the workbench, transfigured earth
singing, &, though she can’t know this, singing
in her cells.

                   Me, I’ve fallen for the idea of her
loneliness, science
a way to say she misses the hands, hands

the surgeon took above the wrist,


what the discarded wasting flesh sings in the refuse pile,


bone shuddering as though it were bird, rainy
newsprint, tin.

                       Elsewhere, Katherine’s hand

slips inside the skull of a grey whale,

beached, feeling for the science of this single death,


the body re-arranging itself in the sea-less gravity


of shore, as the self sparks—
tectonics, a friction—between two modern ideas of the self,


her hand searching as wolves of decomposition,
like a lover, breath against her skin.


Elsewhere, a cellist
remembers the shape her body must take to play this,

how cells re-arrange themselves

to not suffer the sickening stone’s change.


Listening, I’m thinking half about the birds


not living in my hands, & half the mast of someone’s sailboat

tied up on the Hudson, rocking gently now

& then with a surge
suggesting a storm some miles out to sea.


“Stabat Mater (Marie Curie’s Pitchblende)” is from Here Be Monsters (University of Georgia Press, 2010).