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For Louis Slotin

About suffering they were never wrong, the old comics:

Dr. Manhattan's accident a perfect recreation of Slotin's,

poisoned before his frightened co-worker's eyes.

Here's the drawing of him holding his screwdriver, tickling

the dragon. Oppenheimer would complain about his pangs

of conscience, the images of his friend haunting him.

They could imagine what he described: the sour taste

in his mouth, the pain in his hand, and they could still see

that blue glow around him, feel the heat wave

from beryllium meeting plutonium core. His retching,

then nine days of futile blood transfusions.

"A bomb putter-togetherer," he called himself,

though the bomb would take him apart atom by atom.

After this, they began to use robots; they wanted to find a way

to keep a man's hands from touching the demon core of this dragon.

Jeannine Hall Gailey ( is the Seattle-area author of Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006) and She Returns to the Floating World (Kitsune Books, 2011). Her work has been featured on NPR's The Writer's Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. Her website is, and you can see some of her previous work in our archives.
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