Nitrogen in my veins, bonus “Periodic Table” poem by Chiago poet Janet Kuypers

Nitrogen in my veins

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the Periodic Table of Poetry series (#007, N)
(stemming from Fingers Black, written 6/5/10)

You told me nothing.
You just left me.

Now wait a minute,
I’m a journalist,
so all I could do
was turn my fingers black,
scouring the newspapers,
searching for any news
about what happened
with us.

The ink from that paper
crept around my fingernails,
trying to work it’s way
under my skin.
I could feel that
darkened soybean oil,
that petroleum oil,
creeping it’s way into me.
I could feel that Nitrogen
from that petroleum oil
piggy-backing on that
hydrogen, carbon, oxygen.
I could feel that Nitrogen
butting that sulfur out of the way,
pushing it’s way
past the only trace amounts
of nickel and iron.
(Those trace elements
couldn’t stand a chance
against the power
of that Nitrogen,
that power
to spill the news
out to the world.)

I ran my hands
through those newspaper pages.
I felt that ink
seep under my skin,
and I felt the surge
of that Nitrogen in my veins.

I know they use liquid Nitrogen
to fuel cars,
to make them go
at stellar speeds…
And I know people take Nitrogen
to give their bodies
added strength,
journalist or not,
maybe this is
what I need.

I’ll scour those pages,
I’ll let that Nitrogen
seep into my veins,
as I look for any way
to get you back.

all this ink’s in me now.
This Nitrogen has given me
the impetus
for all I’ve got to say.

DNA and Carbon in Asteroids (oh my), bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

DNA and Carbon, in Asteroids (oh my)

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series

You know, us Carbon-based life forms
always wonder where we came from,
how we got here.

And with science on our side,
we’ve looked beyond
guessing and story telling
to find proof in our answers.

And still, we look beyond
what we know around us
to find out how we were formed
here on earth.


A couple of asteroids
just flew
perilously close to the earth.
Asteroid 2012 DA 14 intersected the iridium constellation,
flew through all of our global communication satellites.
An asteroid turned meteor blew up in the atmosphere
above the Ural mountains;
every Russian on the road
filmed the sky explosion
with their dashboard cameras,
before the sonic boom shattered windows everywhere
and injured over a thousand people.

And over two thirds of our planet
is covered in water,
just think of all of the impacts
we’re missing out on;
I mean, our news feeds
don’t come from the middle of the ocean…

So we seem to think that these stellar explosions
are becoming more and more rare,
because our planet is pocked with massive impacts
from the earth’s early history.
But now that these scientists
have been scanning the skies
and studying the meteors buried in Antarctica,
they’ve learned that many asteroids and meteors
colliding with our planet’s crust
actually carry atanine and guanine.

Asteroids carry major structures that form DNA.

It’s very possible
that throughout the early history of earth,
asteroids collided with this planet,
leaving their Carbon-rich DNA structures behind
to help start life, and populate the earth.

I mean, Scientists have always wondered
how the elemental sextet of life:
Carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorous, nitrogen, calcium,
how did these elements got together
in just the right way
to eventually create earth’s Carbon-based life forms.

I guess it would help that primordial soup
if some asteroids brought along
a little bit of DNA,
so some of our building blocks
came ready-made.

Astronomers say that we’re all made out of stardust,
because all of our atoms
originate from the explosion of stars,
but for this Carbon-based life form,
it’s cool that some of these asteroids and meteors
carried our Carbon —
and some of our DNA —
here to planet earth,
to jump-start our creation
and get our genetic gears going.

Platinum poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

A secretary for a trading company
at the Chicago Board of Trade
started dating a trader
(even though he was a trader,
he seemed like a nice guy) —
and after he asked her to marry him
and they were engaged,
she cheating on him
by having an affair with a coworker.
They broke off their engagement
until he forgave her
and offered her an engagement ring
with a huge solitary diamond
in a thick Platinum setting.
Looking like white gold,
Platinum was more expensive,
so she was pleased
she got him to spend
more money on her.

Well, they married,
but within a few years
they were divorced.

It’s a shame that marriage
couldn’t last as long
as that Platinum engagement ring,
made out of one of the strongest
metal elements in the Periodic Table.

I wonder what they did with that ring.
I hope they returned it,
so a stronger couple
could better accentuate
that stronger Platinum ring
and be a better match for all time.

Because I know the Platinum Metal Group
elements are really strong and durable,
because Platinum’s been used in everything
from razor edges to prevent corrosion
to spark plugs, so they can be hotter
and have a longer life.

So yeah, because of Platinum’s
resistance to heat,
it makes sense that Platinum is used
in catalytic converters in cars too —
temporarily pulling the nitrogen
and carbon atoms from
nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide
until they can re-bond
into water and less dangerous byproducts
for the environment.

Because Platinum can really stand the heat,
Platinum’s used for temperature detectors
and high-accuracy electronic thermometers,
and some parts that are launched into space
have been made out of Platinum
because they could not only
withstand the temperatures,
but also prevent corrosion,
so everything being blasted off into space
could stand everything
the Universe may throw at them.

So with Platinum being so resistant to corrosion,
it makes sense that Platinum parts
are in computers, and even in parts
for neurosurgery… I’ve even heard
(though I don’t know the details)
that Platinum may be used
in cancer medication too.
(Wow, that would be great to hear,
if Platinum could also possibly
help people with cancer…)

But when I mentioned Platinum
to someone recently,
the only thing they thought
it was for was
“wealth accumulation”.
And I thought, “For what?
Like buying gold bars?”
Because even though I see
“Cash for Gold” ads,
I haven’t seen people or places
making “Cash for Platinum” calls,
but wealth accumulation must be right,
it has a higher value than gold,
and as we’ve discovered,
it could also be strobng enough
for a wedding band
to truly withstand
the test of time.

Nitrogen poem, AIDS poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

I’m afraid to answer the phone today.
Ever since he called me before
to tell me he has AIDS,
I’ve been afraid to answer my phone
to hear that his condition
has turned for the worse
or that he just died.
His t-cell count has been at zero
for over 2 months now.
He lost his job.
The last word was that he was waiting
for the chance for entrance into a study
where he may get a new set of medications.

And waiting is something he cannot do.

So I’ve looked at homeopathic options,
but I sound like his mother
telling him to eat fresh fruits and veggies.
Don’t eat raw seafood, or raw eggs.
Cook your meat until it is well done
to get the protein you so desperately need.

And I’ve looked at the chemical compounds
in the drugs that are all too expensive,
and I was surprised to see
how many times I saw Nitrogen
listed in these drug compounds.
Nitrogen. I’ve only heard of it
as liquid nitrogen for super-cooling.
Dip a rose in liquid nitrogen
And drop it, so it shatters.
I’ve even heard of nitrogen capsule
“widgets” to carbonate stouts,
or that it’s mixed with oxygen
to make laughing gas.

Maybe I need nitrous oxide,
because yesterday was the first day
I hadn’t cried.
I might have been fine for a half hour,
and then something would trigger it in my mind.
I thought maybe I’m getting used to the news,
but I just cried again.

On the phone, you said
you can’t let the thought of death kill you.
And I was trying so hard
To not just start sobbing on the phone.

You see, this is why
I’m afraid to answer the phone now.

You were on the phone with me
saying that you just have to
get used to the fact
that you’re not going to grow old,
or have a family.
You said that some people
feel like they are on death’s door
with a T-cell count of four hundred,
and some people can run marathons
with a T-cell count of zero.
On the phone,
you first told me yours was at eighty,
and you felt fine.
A little run-down,
but that was to be expected.
Then it dropped lower.
And now I am afraid to answer my phone,
to hear the next round of news.

So now I sit here and read
about antiretroviral drugs
you may or may not be able to take.
Protease inhibitors. Integrase inhibitors.
And I look at the chemical compounds
of all these drugs, with hydrogen
carbon, oxygen, occasionally
fluorine or sulfur,
And the surprisingly ever-present nitrogen.
I stare at these compounds,
wish I could put the elements
together myself
and give you what you need.
Why did I have to learn
about compounds in chemistry class
if I couldn’t make these compounds
to help you live.
Because now I just sit here and read,
and fear my telephone ringing.