Popular Poison by Sara Primo

art by Patrick Perkins

For all the things
we were told to fear (like gum
lasting in our stomachs
for seven years),
there are things we don’t fear
that cost lives.
Tonight I read
about the first
glow-in-the-dark clocks, during WWI.
The factory workers,
trustful and obedient,
licked their brushes before painting
radium onto clock faces.
Setting a timer of how long they’d have left.
There is so much to hate
about this story
and so much you can’t take your eyes from:
Jaws that actually fell off,
worse than any horror movie.

Employers who insisted radium had health benefits.

Radium’s half-life of 1600 years
means that the remains of the girls still glow.
Does a person need to glow green
in the night
for me to believe
they are being killed for a trend,
distributed to the masses?
My daughter knew how to open an Amazon box
before she could read, before I could read
enough in the headlines
of what overnight
actually costs workers.
I bought you a watch
and we got lost coming home.

Sara Primo is a high school and middle school English teacher and yoga teacher, living and working in Philadelphia with her partner and two kids. An educator for the past nineteen years, she has led poetry readings with high school students in NYC and led poetry workshops with the elderly in connection with Dementia Arts. Her poetry is soon to be published in The Dillydoun Review, and you can find more of her writing on Medium.

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