Tantalum, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


a href=”http://www.janetkuypers.com” target=”new”>Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#73, Ta)
(with references to the poem “High Roller”)

People expected
to see me around.
I couldn’t be a recluse.
So I got out my camera
and kept myself
hidden to the world
by separating myself
with a camera lens.

But I longed to see you
sitting again,
cigarette in hand…
I wanted to be able to
walk up behind you,
rest my hands
on your shoulder,
lean my head
next to your face.

I longed to have
my cheek near yours,
not touching,
but so close —
so close that I could
still feel the warmth
from your presence.

But wasn’t I doing that
when I tried to
take pictures instead.

So I then kept myself hidden.
I’ve been a recluse.
Just sat at home
and played video games
so I wouldn’t have to
think about you.

How did I know
you’d work your way
into my shell at home.

I vowed to never
call you again,
you tantalize me so,
but I’d have to remove
every cell phone
I’ve ever used…
You worked your way
into every small crevasse
in my modern world,
and still,
you never cracked
under any pressure
I ever gave you.

It made you
the strong silent type,
you always seemed hidden,
but still so influential.

I should know,
i’m finding everything
that leads me to you
when I try to escape you
in our technology
inundated existence.


I call you tantalizing,
and I think of Tantalus,
a king in Greek mythology —

after king Tantalus
stole secrets from the Gods,
he was forced to stand
in a pool of water
that flowed away from him
whenever he tried to drink.

Kind of like you,
how I seem to need you so,
but how we just
seem to mix.

Magnesium poem by Janet Kuypers

Magnesium (#012, Mg)

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

All this time,
I’ve only known you from afar.

Every once in a while,
I’d see you in the distance
while I was driving down the street.

I may have seen you
only eleven times in my life,
and I know a part of you
is essential in all of my living cells,
but as I said,
I’ve only seen you from afar.

Once, I saw you
outside my bedroom window
after the first snowfall
covered the land in a blanket of white.
That’s when I saw you
walking outside alone,
looking for your next meal.

I know you can leave
me with a sour taste,
but I know you are needed
and it aches me to see you suffer so.

I think I saw you with your children
as I sat out on the balcony
of a father’s house —
I watched you in the distance,
but I didn’t watch you alone.
After a while
someone said to me
that you looked peaceful,
but at another time
they would have shot
and killed you instead.

As I said,
I only see you from afar,
so I try to learn
of how you were created
from such large places,
at temperatures higher
than anything we could imagine.

I tried to learn,
because one day
I was told to go outside,
and that’s when I saw you
laying down among the trees,
never to walk away
from my home again.

I’ve always only
seen you from afar,
and suddenly,
as you lay there,
I could see your organs
shriveled and sunken in
after your skin
had pulled away
as you wasted away.
I could see traces
from your capillaries,
and I could trace
your rib cage,
outline your spine.

I know the heat that created you.
I know you’re highly flammable,
and I know that when you start to burn
you’re impossible to stop.
You fire bombed
in World War Two,
and the only way
they could stop you
was by dumping dry sand on you,
because you’d burn through the air,
and you’d even burn under water.

That’s why you’ve been used
in fireworks and in flares.
That’s why you’ve been used
for illumination and flashes
in photography.

So they call this
momento mori,
I thought,
when I grabbed my camera
to photograph you
in your final resting place.
even though
I’ve seen you,
I’ve needed you, and
I’ve known the damage
you can do,
I needed to photograph you
right then and there.
I’m sorry.
I needed to
remember you this way.