Xenon, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#054, Xe)

I don’t care
that you’re no
Zena warrior princess,
I just can’t stand
those high-intensity
headlights of yours
at night.

You may numb me
from my pain
if I breathe you in,
but the only good
your brightness may do
is that your excitement
may add color and life
to my plasma tee vee.

But, you know,
if I love outer space,
I should like the fact
that you are the propellant
in Ion drives —
because if Xenon is the ion,
it can be shot out of a rocket
in outer space,
forcing the rocket
to move faster and faster
through the void
of outer space.

Then again,
I’m not going to outer space,
and there’s no funding
to get us humans
into outer space
right now anyway…

So I’m sorry.
you may think
you’ve got some
bright ideas,
but when I’m driving
at night,
sometimes I think
you should keep
some of your ideas
in check.

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


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#61, Pm)

The end of the world just passed.
Everyone thought that because the Mayans
ended the calendar at the twenty twelve
Winter Solstice, that meant the
World was ending right then and there.

We all waited with baited breath,
in confused anticipation, not knowing
if we should feel a reserved somber mourning,
a sick ignorant religious end-of-days excitement,
or if we should feel nothing at all.


Did you know that Prometheus
was the Titan in Greek mythology
who stole fire from Mount Olympus
and brought it down to humans?
Maybe that fire would be the end of times…

Maybe Prometheus symbolizes
both the daring and the possible misuse
of mankind’s intellect. Maybe the Mayan calendar
wouldn’t do us in, but our own ignorance
and abusive ways would.

Maybe that end-of-the-world feeling we got
is from the rare decay of others,
that only produces the very unstable you.
But the thing is, despite your issues,
despite all of the ways of you may do us in,

from radioactivity to your emitting of x-rays,
we’ve learned that with just a little protection
we’re safe through the next calendar cycle.
Now we’re better prepared, and you’ll be the one
wondering about the end of times.