Sodium, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Sodium


from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series
8/31/12

It’s funny that something
so common on this Earth,
the 6th most abundant element,
something so common
that it’s usually found
mixed with the ocean water…
It’s funny that something
so common on this Earth
was actually used as currency,
given to ancient Roman soldiers
in addition to their wages.
The English word for it
was even derived from “salary”,
derived from “salarium”
for the wafers for payment.
In Medieval times, “sodanum”
was used to relieve headaches.
And the element name
is probably derived
from the Arabic “suda”
for headache…
It is in the soaps we make,
and we add it to the food
we eat. It has been used
in making and bleaching paper,
it’s in water softeners,
it’s used in compounds
for industrial cleaners,
or even as a tissue dissolving agent.

It’s funny, how we have it
in kosher, iodized and rock forms
in our kitchen.

So I guess it’s fitting
that this silver-white element
(which does not occur in nature
but is derived from it’s compounds),
it’s amazing that
this abundant element
has been used in so many ways,
from creating soaps
to industrial cleaners
to even dissolving tissue…
To even flavoring our food.
In us animals, Sodium
is even needed for nerve impulses
generated in our cell membranes.
So yeah, it makes sense
that if Sodium’s so needed,
and Sodium’s so abundant,
we’d use it in as many compounds
as we possibly can
to make our lives better.

Sulfur poem by Janet Kuypers

Sulfur

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

When I’ve always thought of Sulfur,
I thought of it’s caustic smell,
or the fact that it’s mixed with things
so its used to bleach paper,
or as a fixing agent
when making photography prints.
It’s been used for vulcanizing rubber,
and it has been used as a fertilizer;
I know they use it in compounds
to make anti-inflammatory drugs, too.
(I only know this because
I’ve had an allergic reaction
to taking sulfa drugs, giving me
a rash all over my body.)
But I know it’s needed for life
by many small organisms (and it’s
even needed for keeping human
skin and hair healthy).

Wait… So if us humans need it,
why am I allergic to it? I mean,
my hair’s not brittle, and my skin’s
not falling off… I really hope
that it’s just a matter of me having
just enough of this stuff, because
too much can be bad for me…

And the thing is, I had no idea
that Sulfur was also mentioned
in the Torah and in the Bible…
Historically it was even used
to make the best gunpowder,
and it was commonly used
in Ancient Greece, China and Egypt.

So I guess it makes sense
that if we have combined Sulfur
(though I really prefer to spell it
in Latin with a “ph” instead…)
with so many other things
for our needs in life right now,
that it would have been used
throughout history so much
that this element finds it’s way
into religious books
throughout history too…