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


a href=”http://www.janetkuypers.com” target=”new”>Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#73, Ta)
(with references to the poem “High Roller”)

People expected
to see me around.
I couldn’t be a recluse.
So I got out my camera
and kept myself
hidden to the world
by separating myself
with a camera lens.

But I longed to see you
sitting again,
cigarette in hand…
I wanted to be able to
walk up behind you,
rest my hands
on your shoulder,
lean my head
next to your face.

I longed to have
my cheek near yours,
not touching,
but so close —
so close that I could
still feel the warmth
from your presence.

But wasn’t I doing that
when I tried to
take pictures instead.

So I then kept myself hidden.
I’ve been a recluse.
Just sat at home
and played video games
so I wouldn’t have to
think about you.

How did I know
you’d work your way
into my shell at home.

I vowed to never
call you again,
you tantalize me so,
but I’d have to remove
every cell phone
I’ve ever used…
You worked your way
into every small crevasse
in my modern world,
and still,
you never cracked
under any pressure
I ever gave you.

It made you
the strong silent type,
you always seemed hidden,
but still so influential.

I should know,
i’m finding everything
that leads me to you
when I try to escape you
in our technology
inundated existence.


I call you tantalizing,
and I think of Tantalus,
a king in Greek mythology —

after king Tantalus
stole secrets from the Gods,
he was forced to stand
in a pool of water
that flowed away from him
whenever he tried to drink.

Kind of like you,
how I seem to need you so,
but how we just
seem to mix.

“from Hydrogen to Nothing”, periodic table poem by Janet Kuypers

from Hydrogen to Nothing

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#085, At)
(with references to the poem “Fantastic Car Crash”, 7/3/98)

Love is like tap water,
free flowing…
Remember when you were little,
just put a glass under the faucet
and quench your thirst?

Wait a minute,
it’s not like that.
Water isn’t free.
You even have to pay
for the water in your own home,
it’s not even clean.

What you’re getting is dirty.
And you still have to pay for it.


You know, they say us humans
are like seventy percent water.

And when I think of you,
and all the time we were together —

well, if you’re seventy percent water,
I have to remember
that it wasn’t pure and clean with you.
If this was love;
if this was you —
it wasn’t free.
I’m still paying for it.


I mean, they say we’re mostly made of water,
Hydrogen, oxygen…
But it’s like you were
an electron from Hydrogen to me,
one electron,
spinning around
the center of me,
always keeping
an all too tight
grip on me.

I would think I was free,
and there you would be,
that one presence
I could never get rid of.

You were spinning, orbiting,
spinning my head…
You were keeping your distance,
but still,
you made sure
you were always there,
holding me down.

If we’re mostly made of water,
and you spun around me
like in that Hydrogen atom,
you kept me gasping for air.
I needed that oxygen…
I know water is Hydrogen and oxygen,
I know I’ve got it in me,
I’ve just got to keep myself together
after dealing with what you’ve done to me.


When we’re seventy percent water,
by mass we’re only eleven percent
So most of the mass in our body
may be oxygen…
But by an atomic percentage
we’re sixty-seven percent
meaning most of the atoms
in our bodies
are Hydrogen.

Just one electron,
spinning around that nucleus,
just spinning,
and never letting go.


When I now think of you,
and the fact that you made me feel like nothing —
well, I think of what you’re made of,
and I have to remember:

we’re all made of atoms,
protons and neutrons,
infinitely small,
wound tightly together in the nucleus

at a comparatively vast distance
by occasional,

So when I think of you
I have to remember
that you’re made of those atoms
with really tiny cores —
and those atoms are filled with so much space
that you’re mostly made of nothing.

When I think of you,
I remind myself of this.

When I think of the nothingness you made me feel,
and the fact that you should mean nothing to me,
this is how I must think of you.