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


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#69, Tm)

Scroll to Medieval times,
and see a classical map.

Look over the Carta Marina,
because there you can find
what some theorized
as an island of antiquity —
through for those who traveled
by boat around Britain,
the Thule was the most northerly
of the Britannic Islands.
In ancient literature, however,
the Ultima Thule
was the symbol for
a far-off land,
something unattainable.

And when Thulium was discovered
in the late eighteen hundreds
(named after Thule,
as a mythical region
in Scandinavia),
the element was so rare that
it’s qualities were unattainable…

But even though this is
the rarest of the rare,
and despite the high cost,
it’s in the YAG laser, used
for laser surgery, for work
unattainable by the human hand.
It’s even bombarded
in a nuclear reactor
for it’s use in portable
x-ray devices,
so we can see
what was otherwise
unattainable to the naked eye.

I mean, because of
Thulium’s fluorescence,
it’s even inside euro banknotes,
to prevent counterfeiting.

Because Thulium fluoresces
with a deep blue hue,
we’ll sail the oceans
to learn, we’ll go to
the farthest places we know,
just to see trace glimpses,
because we want to go beyond
what we see…

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