Red Phosphorous, bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, (based on the element Phosphorous, #15, P) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Red Phosphorous

Janet Kuypers

Bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #15, P
11/4/14

Overheard a crime scene investigator,
after witnessing in a home large amounts of Red Phosphorous
say
this must have been the lab site
for making crystal meth.

So, as the reporter in me comes to life,
I instinctively turn over my mobile device
and type in
Red Phosphorous
space
meth

and hit enter,
and lo and behold,
the first site lists
a Red Phosphorous and Iodine
methamphetamine synthesis.

And I swear
I’m not looking
to make crystal meth,
but my thumb
must have pressed a link
(I hate these mobile devices)
and the site came up
for an amalgamation
of many different methods
for the simplest, fastest
and cleanest method
for producing meth-amphetamine
in the highest yields possible.

Like I want to make crystal meth.

I wonder if the government’s
going to be on my back
for following this link —
        because recently,
        after renting a biography audio CD
        from the local library,
        I saw ads appearing
        on every web site I went to
        for a week
        suggesting I purchase
        the autobiography
        I just rented.
        So if government agencies
        are selling their data
        to the highest bidder,
        maybe I should also rent
        while visiting on the Internet
        Hitler’s Mein Kampf
        along with books
        on building a nuclear bomb.

        That and I’ll send
        a ton of emails
        including the President’s name.

         ’Cause if corporate America
        and my ever-intrusive government
        are watching over me,
        I may as well try
        to get on their hit list.

I mean,
a girl can only hope.

#

But then I looked down
at my crystal meth web page,
and quickly closed the window,
but then I thought about it —
we need both Phosphorous
and Iodine in our bodies.
You can even find
Red Phosphorous
in every matchbook,
in flares and fireworks,
but we humans had to go mix it
with what’s in Sudafed
to make crystal meth…

        And you know, I’m tired
        of only being able to purchase
        one package of Sudafed at a time,
        and I still have to sign for it
        and scan my driver’s license —
        you know,
        because I have sinus problems.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned
I’ve found that all the elements we need
can also be used to destroy us.
        I think of all the Hydrogen in our bodies
        and the H bomb, or then I think
        of how our bodies need Potassium
        but we use it for lethal execution injections,
        there are some elements used for cancer detection
        in x-rays that are products from nuclear explosions,
        the list of good and bad things from elements
        goes on and on, trust me…
And you may think,
“but it’s just crystal meth,”
and you may be right,
if you only do it once
it probably won’t kill you,
but it supports my point:
we ingenious humans
find a way to take everything we need,
everything that makes us… us,
and make it all something
that can also lead to our destruction.

It’s funny how we humans do that,
how we search, explore and discover
to find that the flip side
of the elemental coins
that keep us alive —
well, it’s scary to see
when we flip the coins
just how messed up
the other side can be.

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

Titanium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#22, Ti)
(based on the poem “The Way You Tease Me”)
10/1/13

What I think I like the most about you
is the way you always leave me wanting more.
The longer I’m out in the sun, the more red
my nose and cheeks get, and the more I want
to slather you all over me to protect me.

What I think I like the most about you is how
whenever I see you around me, you consume me
like a wave of heat on a summer afternoon.
Seeing your metal along my flesh teases me
until sweat dances down my hairline and tickles my neck.

What I think I like the most about you
is when you say that absence makes the heart grow fonder,
because you’re like the fireworks I only see
on special occasions, and with your absence
I want you more, so you couldn’t be more right.

What I think I like the most about you
are the things that make me think I have to fight for you,
are the things that make you cost just too much.
It’s true, the market determines your worth to the world,
even if you’re always priceless to me.

What I think I like the most about you
is the fact that you can lead the way to help me
fly high into the sky, so I could see any corner
of the Earth, or even see the Universe beyond
our narrow global vision. You do that for me.

What I think I like the most about you
is the fact that you seem so common in the world,
but you manage to hide yourself in just the right way.
But still, you’re everywhere from dental implants to cell phones,
to engagement rings to jet engines to space ships…

What I think I like the most about you
is the wondering about you, is the yearning for you.
That’s what I like. This high-charged guessing game.
You make me work so hard just to find you. You leave me
to think about the possibilities. And that’s what I like.

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

Rubidium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#37, Rb)
(based on the poem “Burning Building”)
10/2/13, finished 10/3/13

You tell me you want to be the hand
that pulls me from the burning building,
but you caused that fire.
They try to put it out with water,
but you turn it into hydrogen gas.
You give everything more heat,
and the fire only expands.

So every time I try to be rescued
you turn your back,
you claim you have more work to do.

So I will rescue myself this time again,
and I will wonder if I should stop trying
and allow myself to perish in the flames.
Now all I have to do is sit and wait
for another disaster to consume me.

I’ll wait for you to do your work.
Sitting and waiting is exactly what I’ll do.

You fascinate me with your fireworks, you think,
oh, what a pretty purple color. She’ll like that.
But I was never that fond of that color,
and I hate the damage you can cause.

When things get hot, it seems you melt
just above my own body temperature.
How can I survive with you like this?

My love for you is the deepest red, but
why do you tell me one thing and do another?
You really charge me when we’re together, but
why do you run away when I need you most?

I’m stepping over the wooden beams now,
and the flames are all around me. Here, look
at the blood dripping from my arms. Here,
smell my flesh burning. This is what you do.

You have been so volatile recently, that you
seem to react to everything I ever do, even
if it’s in an effort to save us. So, let me burn.

Can’t it be easier for me to just perish? I try and try,
and every time at the last minute, my figure
steps over the the charred remains and saves me.

If only you wouldn’t create the burning.
Is only you would exist for more than destruction,
even if it was only for purple fireworks, or
conducting electricity, or cooling lasers,
giving power to batteries, or outer space energy.

But I’m afraid to be with you anymore,
because you’ll even spontaneously ignite
in the air. I know our past, I know I can
absorb you into me, But I only know now
that you serve no purpose for me.

So after all this time, I only wonder if I could
ever feel safe with you, even just once.

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
in ATP, DNA, RNA,
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.
Suddenly
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.
Because
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.