Mendelevium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#101, Md)

“Once, there lived and existed
a great learned man,
with a beard
almost as long as God’s.”

Daniel Posen wrote that,
about Demitri Mendeleev,
a Russian scientist
who created the
Periodic Table as we know it.

There’s even a sculpture
outside the Bratislava, Slovakia
University of Technology —
in the center is Mendeleev’s head,
fully adorned with metallic curves
for his flowing name and beard,
as rows of elements
emanate from his head.

Because while other scientists
tried to come up with ways
to order the known elements,
Mendeleev predicted
a system of elements,
based on their weights
and explaining their properties —
this idea showed the spaces
between the atomic weights
of discovered elements,
and explained the properties
of elements that would only be
discovered in the future.

It’s good to know
that just a few years after
the American Civil War ended,
that scientists globally
were able to understand
the relationship between
the elements, thanks to Mendeleev.

And it’s sad
that the science community
waited for nearly half a century
after this God-like scientist’s death
to mane an element after him.


Mendeleev did many odd jobs
during his life,
not unlike Albert Einstein,
with an element named after him
only two spots away
on Mendeleev’s Periodic Table.
And the thing is,
Mendelevium is only created
after smashing Einsteinium
with alpha particles…

But it’s sad,
that with all of the research
the world has done
to learn about this element,
we still know so little.
Mendeleev taught us
how to research and discover more,
but now that we found
only trace amounts of Mendelevium,
we still don’t know what to do…


Because once we’ve found you,
if you don’t give us enough
so we can learn,
we’re forced to wonder:
will you be more like Einsteinium,
silvery-white, radioactive —
but with an estimated enthalpy
that underlines your danger to us?
Because I imagine that you,
like Mendeleev,
will show us how to learn
then leave us alone
to struggle for you.

Einsteinium poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Einstein understood
that everything was relative…

Why did he have to worry
about brushing his hair
or changing out of his pajamas
when he was busy grappling
with the foundations of phyics?

And once he fathomed
the relationship
between matter and energy,
once he understood
the interconnectivity
between matter and energy —

he suddenly understood,
after this Jewish physicist
left his home in Germany,
that Hitler and the Third Reich
could be working on an atomic bomb,
converting so little matter
into so much devastating energy.

At this time, he understood
the need for Roosevelt
to create this weapon
so the Germans wouldn’t destroy us.

The gravity of this discovery
in the hands of evil men
weighed him down,
and even months
before he died,
Einstein wrote
that although the devastation
in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
seemed unfathomably horrific
and he regretted writing
that letter to Roosevelt,
his justification
was the threat of Germany.
When he wrote that letter,
he still had to appeal to Roosevelt,
that yes, to save us from Germany,
this weapon needed to be created.

Knowing about his torment
in making this decision
to ask for the creation
of the atomic bomb,
makes it so ironically beautiful
that after scientists
discovered an element
after the first explosion
of the hydrogen bomb,
they named the element Einsteinium
after the physicist.


Einsteinium is a silvery-white,
radioactive, synthetic element
with a high fission rate,
like the atomic bombs
Einstein first knew of
when fearing his homeland enemy.
But because of the short half-life
of all isotopes of Einsteinium,
all primordial Einsteinium
has decayed by now,
and beyond it’s nuclear creation,
there is almost no use
for any isotope of Einsteinium
outside of basic scientific research…

Which makes me think of the
life of Albert Einstein, I suppose,
for although Einstein worked
at odd jobs for years
until he was a patent examiner,
his mind was only good at one thing:
doing not-so-basic scientific research,
solving scientific fundamental puzzles,
if only he had the time
to study the puzzle long enough.

photos of Janet Kuypers and Albert Einstein with their tongues sticking out