The other day, I heard the following poem, “Power,” by Adrienne Rich:


Living in the earth deposits of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test tube or pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power

-Adrienne Rich, 1974

Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist renowned for her work with uranium, the element responsible for radioactivity. She also discovered two additional elements, polonium and radium. Curie was the first person to earn two Nobel prizes in two different fields–physics and chemistry. Dope!

Rich’s poem highlights that the source of Curie’s power, radioactivity, was also the source of her demise.

Re-read that sentence. Please.

The poem resonated with my inner soul as I loudly hmmm-ed at the end of the poem’s recital. The assertion that the same things that make us successful can also account for our shortcomings strike a chord with me.

What does this poem and its conclusion mean for you?



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