Holding Radium

      by Diane Ackerman


You handle me
as if composing a haiku—
a few pithy strokes
with an effect
that’s pure lightning.

What does it feel like
gathering a wild, dark,
iridescent thing in your hands,
tight enough to shelter it
and even calm its trembling,
yet loose enough
not to fright or imprison it?

Sometimes how we are
is the most beautiful thing
I know—an invisible gift
I’ve craved since I was little.
But there’s no word for it
in my heart’s vocabulary.

Excerpted from a three-part longer poem, in Origami Bridges, New York: HarperCollins, 2002, page 45.
 I think of Bashō’s notion of karumi, or lightness, in haiku, which I’ve defined elsewhere as the poetic ability to catch a soap bubble without popping it.