artwork: ralph murre
Radium Girls, 1924
Radium Dial Plant,
by Peg Bresnahan
The tips of their tongues moistened
the brushes that daubed the dials
of clocks with a glow they thought
would last forever, but
it was the same as any comet’s
kiss, too close, too long. They painted
their nails and skin with its salts,
combed their hair, brushed their teeth
with it for that razz-ma-tazz look.
Young and ready to shine,
they sipped phosphorous cocktails,
the shimmy Charleston
in shadowed nightclubs until dawn.
Wrapped in pure energy they glowed,
most beautiful in the dark.
~ Previously published in the
2013 Press 53 Open Awards Anthology