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.

Lawrencium, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#103, Lr)

I’ve always tried to figure you out.
I could never pinpoint your true destiny.
All I know
is that your radio
activity to me
left my bones so brittle.
I know your heart is a hand grenade.
You’ve made my skin so paper thin.
You’re corroded me
until my lips
are forever shut.

Antimony, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#51, Sb)

It’s actually quite unremarkable.
It doesn’t seem to have much use.

But Antimony seemed to
cause a long and bitter war
in the sixteen hundreds
between France and Germany.

Wars are started over land,
religion, love, or money.
But the element Antimony?

Well, doctors in that age
believed in the medicinal value
of Antimony, and the war
was the war of the pen,
with opposing views
on Antimony’s medicinal value.
The two sides took up literary arms,
writing scathing reports
in medical journals
with the vitriol
of a Jerry Springer show
where the bodyguards
couldn’t even control the feud.

And the scary thing
is that Antimony is actually toxic…

But still,
Greek physicians
recommended Antimony
for skin complaints
in the first century A.D.,
and since that age,
many still championed Antimony
for medicinal purposes…
In fact, in Germany
a man (under the false name
of a fifteenth century monk
named Basil Valentine)
wrote an entire book
about Antimony remedies,
published in sixteen oh four.
And he claimed that alchemy
could free Antimony
of it’s toxicity:
just because it makes you vomit,
means that it helps your body
remove the toxins that ail you.

The Egyptians even
used Antimony
as a form of mascara —
they called the toxic
Antimony sulfide stibnite
a black eye powder
called “kohl”.

Later, Al-Qaeda chemists
called this substance
Al-Kohl, which came to be
a term to mean any powder,
which led to a sixteen hundreds
Swiss alchemist
to call a distilled extract
of wine “alcool vini”
(which shows the trail
from toxic eye make-up
to intoxicating “alcohol”).

But this fondness for Antimony
lasted through the centuries,
as doctors still prescribed it’s use
through the seventeen hundreds.
It has even been suggested
that Antimony “remedies”
may have been
what actually killed Mozart.

Maybe they caught on
to Antimony
by the next century,
because it became
the element of choice
for murderers looking to cause
a slow painful death
to their victims.

We use Antimony now
only in alloys for batteries,
or maybe to harden lead.
But it’s strange,
that Antimony can have
such a violent history,
dipping it’s hand into everything
from make-up to medicines,
to the later naming of “alcohol”,
to poisoning people.
I guess when people don’t know
all the chemical conditions,
Antimony can lead
a colorful history indeed…

Sulfur poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

When I’ve always thought of Sulfur,
I thought of it’s caustic smell,
or the fact that it’s mixed with things
so its used to bleach paper,
or as a fixing agent
when making photography prints.
It’s been used for vulcanizing rubber,
and it has been used as a fertilizer;
I know they use it in compounds
to make anti-inflammatory drugs, too.
(I only know this because
I’ve had an allergic reaction
to taking sulfa drugs, giving me
a rash all over my body.)
But I know it’s needed for life
by many small organisms (and it’s
even needed for keeping human
skin and hair healthy).

Wait… So if us humans need it,
why am I allergic to it? I mean,
my hair’s not brittle, and my skin’s
not falling off… I really hope
that it’s just a matter of me having
just enough of this stuff, because
too much can be bad for me…

And the thing is, I had no idea
that Sulfur was also mentioned
in the Torah and in the Bible…
Historically it was even used
to make the best gunpowder,
and it was commonly used
in Ancient Greece, China and Egypt.

So I guess it makes sense
that if we have combined Sulfur
(though I really prefer to spell it
in Latin with a “ph” instead…)
with so many other things
for our needs in life right now,
that it would have been used
throughout history so much
that this element finds it’s way
into religious books
throughout history too…