Yttrium, from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#39, Y) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#39, Y)

Recently NASA sent a rocket
to collide with a comet
to gather comet dust,
so they could learn about comets,
which contain the primordial parts
of what started this solar system.

A compact disc bearing my name
was mounted on the impactor
spacecraft shot into space
on this Deep Impact mission.

Although this was the first NASA
mission with my name on it,
it was also the first NASA mission
to learn about what’s deep inside
a comet.

The rocket combustion chamber
that shot this impactor spacecraft
on it’s collision course
with Comet Tempel 1,
had a silver-colored lining
of an alloy of nickel, chromium,
aluminum and Yttrium.
Yttrium makes sense, because
Yttrium has been used
in places from MRI scanners
(to help us heal)
to CRT tubes on TV sets
(to help us see).
Yttrium makes element
compounds stronger
(good for stellar travel)…
Besides, the fact that Yttrium
is colorless, odorless,
and not naturally magnetic
gives it an added plus
while being a part of the launching
of the rocket I tacked my name onto
when looking for a comet.
It’ll help us see more than
what’s inside our bodies, or
what a cathode ray tube could —
it may help us see
where we came from
in this solar system too.

Ytterbium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#70, Yb) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#70, Yb)
(with references to the poem “Writing Your Name ”)

I’ve searched for you.

Though others may say otherwise,
I know you’re not at all rare —
so I’ll still keep searching.

You’ve always been on time
whenever I’ve wanted you,
but you seem to leave
that fire in the air as you leave…
And you always escape me,
like you slip between my toes
as I’m walking along the beach,
like grains of complex sand,
each grain a nearly microscopic
crystalline rock.

Like you’re minute crystal,
sliding by me
as I walk on by.

I know you’ve always
mixed well with others,
so I’ll go that beach.
I’ll sit there
and take a stick
and write your name
in that precious sand.

I’ll check my watch —
how long have I
been searching?

I’ll run my hands
along those grains of sand.
I’ll study those compounds
making those grains of sand,
those ragged crystalline stones.
Those crystalline stones remind me
of the shards of doped glass
that shattered
when I saw you last.

And now it’s been so long
that I’ve been looking for you.
I’ll check my watch again.

I’ll pull out my pocket
infrared laser light pen.
I’ll shine it on the sand.
I’ll look to see
if anything
reflects light
in different colors back to me,
wondering what I’d see
if my eyes could see
in infrared light
in my search for you.

As I said,
I’ll so anything
in my search
to find you.

I’ll check the time again.
My watch has to be on time….

Because I don’t care
what anyone says.
I wrote your name
in the sand,
and if the elements
wash away your name tonight,
I will be back tomorrow
to write it again.

Sodium, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series

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.