Seaborgium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#105, Sg) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Seaborgium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#105, Sg)
7/28/14 (started 7/27/14)

I’ve always loved the sea.
When standing at these Pacific shores
I’m always intoxicated by the action there,
at the vibrancy, the sense of life.
I’ve always been drawn to the idea of learning,
to California’s desire to explore and discover.

#

There was a scientist, Glenn Seaborg,
who later worked through U of C Berkeley.
And when it comes to discovery in California,
Seaborg really had a hold on the chemistry market.
Because during his career, he did theoretical work
in the development of the Actinide series
in the Periodic Table, and he even helped discover
ten elements (many in that Actinide series).

But one element that wasn’t in the Actinides series
that he helped discover, element one oh six,
that was the element people petitioned
to be named after him (you know, because
of all he had discovered for the Periodic Table).
But scientists in Dubna Russia were also wanting
to claim the naming rights for element one oh six,
and naming this element after Seaborg
caused quite a stir, because elements
are only named after dead people, they said.
But the Americans actually pulled it off
and got the new element named Seaborgium.

Transuranium elements like Seaborgium
are only artificially made with particle accelerators,
and I know those scientists,
after finding elements that way
only acquire one or two atoms,
and they can only guess the element’s properties
by their location on the Periodic Table…
I mean, Seaborgium’s isotopes
have half lives only seconds long,
and there’s no use we know of for Seaborgium
other than scientific research
(like for scientists like Seaborg or Albert Ghiorso,
or the leader of that Seaborgium discovery team).

But after the element was named Seaborgium,
and since Seaborgium is the only element
named after a living person,
it may have been possible
to send Glenn Seaborg a letter
addressed in chemical elements:
send it to Seaborgium,
in lawrencium (for his Lawrence Berkeley Lab),
in the city berkelium,
in the state californium,
and
(if the letter’s being mailed
from outside the U.S.)
in the country americium…
I don’t know if any letters like this
actually got through to him,
but for a man with that many
discoveries under his belt,
sending letters to him
using only Periodic Table elements
almost seems like icing on the cake.

Vanadium, from the “Periodic Table of poetry” series by Chicago Poet Janet Kuypers

Vanadium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#023, V)
2/24/13

I’ve been going out with my boyfriend
for five years now…

And when he took me to prom
a few years ago,
his bulging biceps
almost made his tuxedo sleeves burst.

And I know he spent
four hours a day lifting weights,
I know he drank raw eggs
and took all sorts of drugs
just so he could be the strongest…

But every girl I knew
did a double-take, all agape
whenever he entered the room.

And it was the coolest thing,
climbing up into his truck
with the awesome exhaust
and the cool flames painted down the sides,
when he would take me to the movies
or drop me off for my cosmetology classes.

Now, I always thought
it was kind of weird
that he would take different drugs
just to bulk up more,
but he’d swear they were legal,
I mean,
he even told me one of them was just
a harmless element called Vanadium,
and I don’t know,
when he said “element”
I just thought about how
I just kind of tuned out
in chemistry class,
so I typed “Vanadium”
into my smart phone,
and I didn’t see anything
about it being bad for you
or illegal or anything…

All the girls in school would ask me
if I would stick with him
after I got a job out of school…

And the thing is,
now that my twenty-third birthday
is coming up,
I’ve got a job
and I’ve been doing really well…

And he’s been dropping hints
like he might pop the question
on my birthday this June.

But he was acting really weird,
so I thought
something was fishy,
so I checked out his smart phone
for any ideas of what he might be doing
for my birthday…

And that’s when I saw
“Vanadium” on a web page link,
and I thought,
‘Oh no, is he doing MORE
to try to get even BIGGER?’…

So I went to the web page,
and I saw that Vanadium
was added to “corundum”
(what? I don’t even know
what corundum IS),
but Vanadium is added to it
to make simulated Alexandrite gemstones.

Now, wait a minute,
I know Alexandrite is my birthhtone,
and it’s only found in like Russia.
It’s really cool, it changes color
in different light,
but it’s WAY expensive,
like more than diamonds or anything,
so I figured I could never afford
any Alexandrite.

And you know,
now that I’m out of school
I’ve got a really good job at the salon,
and after being promoted
they’re looking to promote me again,
I’m starting to feel
like I can actually
GO somewhere in my life.

So now that I think about it,
I mean, it was great
to hang off my bodybuilder’s arm
all these years,
but maybe now I should start
to stand up for myself.
I mean,
he may have thought he needed Vanadium
to make himself bigger,
but there’s no way
I’m going to take an Alexandrite rip-off
with Vanadium
if that’s the best he can do…

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

Ruthenium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#44, Ru)
7/14/13

IÙve looked for something
that would pique my interest,
the palladium bored me,
platinum was too expensive
because it was often so rare,
but then I looked around
and thatÙs when I discovered you.

I mean, there didnÙt seem to be
much of a use for you,
I even heard that a metals company
even offered 100 grams of you
free to aspiring researchers
(hoping that someone
one day may find a use for you)…

Organometallic chemistry experts
were even trying to give you away.

Well, sure, chemists used you —
they mixed you with whatever
they could find, just to see
what you might possibly create.

(Kind of like a bartender,
trying to come up with
the perfect cocktail, they
could mix for decades…)

but IÙve looked into it,
and youÙre a cheap dull grey,
probably something
IÙd find at a Walmart…

I know, I said I was looking
for something to pique my interest,
and though you come around cheaply,
youÙre still harder to find.
IÙll keep looking for something
to pique my interest,
and who knows, maybe
one day
people will find just the right niche,
and youÙll be just what I need.

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

Rhodium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#45, Rh)
10/15/13

When you say the word “menthol,”
images probably crop up in your head
of women holding a cigarette stick
like she’s using her smoke
as an orchestra wand,
tracing the line of smoke
like she’s conducting a symphony
with her mint-tasting cancer stick.

But menthol’s also used in lip balms
(I really like that stuff, too,
I like the minty flavor on my lips) —
it’s even used in cough medications.
It can be used in those Icy Hot patches,
menthol’s in decongestants
like Vicks VapoRub, it’s in
aftershaves to relieve razor burn.
Yeah, and speaking of the taste
in cigarettes or lip balm, menthol
is in mouthwashes, toothpastes,
even chewing gum.

So really, now that you know how
widely it’s used now, you can see
how menthol’s demand is now so huge
compared to the natural supply.
So in Japan, one man even won in 2001
the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for
a process to meet the demand
for more menthol worldwide.
This Japanese team used Rhodium
based catalysts for menthol synthesis.

And yeah, Rhodium is used in catalysts
for anything from automobile
catalytic converters, or making
certain silicone rubbers. And sure,
Rhodium is used for jewelry,
coating sterling silver to stop tarnishing
or electroplating white gold and platinum,
making it white and reflective.

I mean, the Guinness Book of World Records
gave Paul McCartney a Rhodium-plated disc
in 1979 for being history’s all-time best-selling
songwriter and recording artist.

Not gold. Not titanium. But Rhodium.

(And because Rhodium’s so expensive,
that World Records award disc given to
Paul McCartney isn’t even solid Rhodium.)

So I guess it’s kind of interesting that
this expensive decorative jewelry addition
is also used to give our chewing gum
that excellent minty flavor. So yeah,
when you’re worrying about how money
can seem tight sometimes,
don’t worry about the jewelry.
Just pop a stick of mint chewing gum
in your mouth, thanks to Rhodium,
and realize that we all probably
don’t have it that bad after all.