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“I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy.” Marie Curie (1897-1934)

Nine years old, library book, watercolor portrait of a woman:
hair drawn back loosely, her dress dark and plain, her expression serious.

Another page shows a man falling in the street, 1906, a horse’s head
pulled back in alarm. The woman again, with two small girls. All three alone

on the page, in the house, 1908. Here was one woman who, for a time,
gave everything to work, to love. Price tags

easier to see later: separation from beloved sisters, taking a new country,
children who came to know you best later in life,

watching your health wilting under radium’s glare.
In the photo from 1920, her face is like my grandma’s,

when I thought my grandma was old. Some years she keeps
me company, some years she haunts me. You could be

more selfish, she reminds me. Go use that room in the basement. It’s why
you bought this house. Yes, you will miss moments, chances for conversation,

small glimpses of someone’s worries. You will be interrupted
for the smallest of favors: to find a band-aid, to pour

a glass of milk, to look over a paragraph. But make
them come and find you. Make them interrupt you at work.

Merie Kirby grew up in California. Now she lives in Grand Forks, ND and teaches at the University of North Dakota. You can find her hanging out with her husband, son, dog, and cat, reading, writing, playing board games, and watching sci-fi movies. You can also find her online at

© 2022, Merie Kirby

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