Yttrium, from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#39, Y) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#39, Y)

Recently NASA sent a rocket
to collide with a comet
to gather comet dust,
so they could learn about comets,
which contain the primordial parts
of what started this solar system.

A compact disc bearing my name
was mounted on the impactor
spacecraft shot into space
on this Deep Impact mission.

Although this was the first NASA
mission with my name on it,
it was also the first NASA mission
to learn about what’s deep inside
a comet.

The rocket combustion chamber
that shot this impactor spacecraft
on it’s collision course
with Comet Tempel 1,
had a silver-colored lining
of an alloy of nickel, chromium,
aluminum and Yttrium.
Yttrium makes sense, because
Yttrium has been used
in places from MRI scanners
(to help us heal)
to CRT tubes on TV sets
(to help us see).
Yttrium makes element
compounds stronger
(good for stellar travel)…
Besides, the fact that Yttrium
is colorless, odorless,
and not naturally magnetic
gives it an added plus
while being a part of the launching
of the rocket I tacked my name onto
when looking for a comet.
It’ll help us see more than
what’s inside our bodies, or
what a cathode ray tube could —
it may help us see
where we came from
in this solar system too.

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.