Radon poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Went into Austria,
to the Gastein Curative Tunnel
where the ambient temperature
was close to one hundred degrees,
the humidity was almost eighty percent,
and the natural tunnel also contained
a shocking amount of radon in the air.

Now, I know the EPA reports
that radon exposure in the home
can lead to up to twenty thousand
lung cancer deaths per year.

And you know, I kind of
don’t want to get lung cancer.

But in the Gastein Curative Tunnel
in the “Hohe Tauern” mountains,
first explored to mine for gold,
they noticed the extreme heat and humidity.

But then they noticed that mine workers
with rheumatic problems
were getting better when there,
and they all had more energy.

After discoverig the Radon in the air,
they found that staying in the tunnel
for certain lengths of time
helped their ailments.

The Radon in the air helped
make their body heal itself faster.

I mean, people today still use this tunnel
for curing assorted ailments,
so I thought,
one visit won’t give me lung cancer,
maybe this is something I should try.

So I went to the Radhousberg tunnels,
wore a swimsuit and rested in the tunnel
for 45 minutes in silence with other attendants.

From breathing training,
I tried to take deep long breaths
as I lay in the tunnel
to get all the air I could
and soak in as much Radon as possible.

I saw someone opening and closing their hands
while they were laying in the Gastein Curative Tunnel;
it made me wonder if it would help my hands
from typing so much on the computer.

Yes, I was dripping wet
from the heat and the humidity,
and drank a ton of water,
but it was probably novel
to travel four thousand seven hundred miles,
to defy the EPA
and overload myself just once
with a radioactive element.