Okay, it’s all about the Oxygen, bonus “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Okay, it’s all about the Oxygen

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (&#035l8, O)

Okay, so I like to think of myself
as a history buff.

And no, I don’t pay attention to
American history,
or even the details of, like, the ancient
Roman Empire
or anything – for the most part,
I’m not even
interested in the history of people…
To quote Linus
in Peanuts, “I love mankind, it’s people
I can’t stand”…

Yeah, I know, my history’s older than the
human race:
how was this Solar System formed?
Or the Earth?
How was this planet able to sustain life
so that we humans
could sit around thinking about
this stuff?

As I said, when I think history,
all I can do
is gather evidence and theorize…
But really,
that just shows that there are times
when I’m actually
transfixed on a truly more universal


So look, I know I’ve studied way back
to when matter
didn’t even exist yet in this Universe,
or how matter formed.
I know theories about asteroids bringing
the building blocks
of life itself to this planet. And sure,
scientists think comets
brought water to planet Earth, too.
But when I think
of early Earth, when it formed, it was a real
mess, there were
constant bombardments with objects
from outer space,
volcanoes were going off constantly,
and the atmosphere
was all sulfur and methane, thanks
to the volatility
of Earth mach one. And okay, comets
may have brought water,
and water has Oxygen in it, but really,
back then the atmosphere
was a bunch of un-breathable stuff
to us humans.

Okay, so because there was no Oxygen
in the atmosphere,
any life that started on Earth mach one
probably thought
Oxygen was poisonous. (Because okay,
I know there’s nitrogen
in our atmosphere, but if there was
no Oxygen
and it was replaced by sulfur
we couldn’t live,
but early life living in a sulfur-rich
may find Oxygen is toxic to them, right?)

Okay, so I know
the universal historian inside of me
wanted to know
how Oxygen actually got into our air,
so human life
(or any life as we know it here on Earth)
could actually begin.


Okay, so paleontologists study fossils,
and the found some
that are two hundred million years old,
like in Earth mach one.
Think about it: this was cyanobacteria from
two hundred million
years ago, near what scientists now call
the great Oxygen event
(which is what they call the biologically
appearance of Oxygen in the air).
Well anyway,
in Earth mach one, any Oxygen that existed
was just dissolved
by the molten iron (that same iron
that formed
the Earth’s inner core, I imagine).
But the thing is,
this cyanobacteria used photosynthesis,
making Oxygen.
And once there was so much Oxygen
that it couldn’t be
dissolved into the then saturated reserves,
all that Oxygen
stayed in our atmosphere instead.


I don’t know, I keep trying to piece together
this puzzle,
but this whole ‘Universe puzzle’ is a pretty
massive endeavor.
I mean okay, all matter that we can monitor
only takes up
maybe four percent of this Universe.
And I still don’t
know how to fit the idea of Dark Matter
into this puzzle
I’ve been working on… So maybe
I’ll have to reassess
learning everything about everything right now,
and work
with stuff like the Oxygen around me

Actinium, “Periodic Table” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#089, Ac)

So at my old job
we had to work with
this piece of machinery
that in order for it to work,
needed to be powered
by eight D cell batteries.

Yeah, we could have
plugged it in,
but there never was an outlet
in the places where
we actually used
this machinery.

And these eight
D cell batteries
we had to use
were lasting only
two to four hours,
so we had to
go through anywhere
from four to eight
sets of batteries a day.

I mean, that’s insane,
having to go through
all that battery power,
so I called the manufacturer
to see if any battery packs
had a longer life,
I even asked
if rechargeable battery packs
existed for it.
They said there were no
rechargeable battery packs,
but a sales engineer there
said they had a special
long life battery pack
that lasts several years.
Sounds like a good plan,
so I asked for pricing,
and found out it was
thousands of dollars.

Yeah, this battery pack
could run from
fourteen thousand dollars
to upwards of
forty thousand dollars…

But I was prepared to go
to our supervisor with
these figures, because
yeah, that’s a lot of money,
but if we keep using this machine
we’ll spend that on batteries
in less time.

So I called that sales engineer
again for more information,
and that’s when he told me
sorry, we couldn’t buy it.
Now, I know it’s expensive,
but I had to know what’s up,
and he said they could only sell it
to NASA,
the DOD,
and select US government agencies.

So yeah, I had to ask why,
and found out it was a special
radioactive thermoelectric battery
for use in outer space.

it seems that the
radioactive Actinium
was the fuel
for the work
that I need to do.

I guess it figures,
that the only thing
that could help out my work
is something insanely rare,
and insanely expensive,
and it’s best suited
for spacecraft —
not down here,
where I’ve got work to do….