Luminescence Rising

they licked camel hair
smeared radium particles
onto dials, the thin numbers hardest
to apply clean strokes
the very illuminated
gauges that pushed men
in flying fortresses over lotus
ponds, Baroque palaces to god
bombed, the night vision panels on B-29s
glowing with the radium zinc oxide

can anyone see the ignition of cells
as they followed their country’s call
little shops set up in the cold of winter
the altimeters, speedometers, fuel needles
glowing with the dust in their palettes

women whose marrow leeched from jaws
big goiters, pupa shaped tumors inside
nasal passages, constricting thyroid lesions
the voice boxes frozen by rampant cells
on fire, bellies laced with strontium 90

watch face painters, Tiffany’s newest product lines
radionuclides pushing luminescence with alpha
and beta particles, what Marie and Pierre Curie
saw in the piles of blue glowing radium

so many Swiss watches in the 1920s like
bio-luminescence on their wrists
the novelty of time seen in the dead of night
so many watch face painters
they could be seen at night
in big cities in Switzerland and Germany
along street promenades
their hair glowing
sparkled like a halo around them

these are the stories found locked in your
poet’s cells, ebbing forces of memories
collisions from history, the incredible heave
of humanity’s disaster, the pain in their lives
our own ability to make sense out of madness
some bit of rationality out of poetry

**end**

Paul Kirk has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. Read other articles by Paul.