devastation baby


The Radium Girls

by Craig Finlay

When the case against the United States Radium Corporation finally came to court, the women who brought the lawsuit were so sick they could not raise their hands to swear to the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help them God. They had used radium to paint the luminescent dials of wrist watches. They had been instructed to wet their brushes with their lips because their mouths wasted less radium than a glass of water. And so, instead of the water, it entered them, and they glowed brighter than the faces of the watches they painted. So bright that it was difficult to look at them directly. Bailiffs handed out disposable sunglasses in the courtroom. The kind one wears after getting their pupils dilated at the optometrist. Eventually they had to use welding goggles, and after a while even that didn’t work. “Objection,” the defense called, his voice muffled through a heavy welding mask. “How are we expected to get any work done under these circumstances?” Around the courthouse windows, millions of moths swarmed, thinking they must be near the darkest place. How the birds must have feasted, how the spiders must have rejoiced.

Craig is a most-of-the-time librarian and some-of-the-time poet currently on an Omaha leg of a lifelong tour of the midwest. His first collection of poems, The Very Small Mammoths of Wrangel Island, was released by Urban Farmhouse Press in 2021.