Lead, periodic table poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Lead

by Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#082, Pb)

I walked into the bedroom,
opened the closet door,
pulled out the cardboard box,
then opened it to pull out
a pistol case.
I set the piston case down,
opened it,
saw the unloaded twenty-two
and the filled magazine.
I held the magazine
filled with Lead bullets,
reminding myself
that it was always an option.

There’s so much more weight
in those Lead bullets.
They feel heavy in my hand.

Then again,
Lead aprons to protect you from x-rays
are heavy, too.

Lead is so common,
used for thousands of years,
from the Bronze Age,
pushing the Roman economy.
The name for plumbing
even comes from the Latin
“plumbum” because
Lead pipes were used.

And after all these years,
Lead’s not even used
in lead pencils,
that writing stylus
is just a lead mockup. . .

Because Lead comes
from the decay of uranium,
and sometimes could be radioactive,
but still, it can protect you
from things like x-rays
or even nuclear contamination.

So yeah, it can protect you,
and it can also be the missile
in an instrument of death.

As I said,
These bullets
feel so heavy
in my hands.

Iodine, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Iodine

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#053, I)

I saw a science fantasy show once
where a man made entirely out of tumors
could only regenerate himself to survive
by submerging in a bathtub of Iodine.

Now I’m not a tumor, I’m only human,
but I have to remember that you’re good for me,
you and you violet vapors,
we’ve just got to find out ways
to keep you with us as long as we can…

you’re rare throughout this Universe,
but lucky us, here on planet earth,
we’re the one with the water,
and you seem to be all over our oceans.

Lucky us, we need your nutrition,
and we need you to help us heal…

But as I said, you’re rare in the Universe,
which means you’re rare on this land.
And if we can’t get enough of you,
it might be an intellectual disability.

But you help me see right down to my bones,
and I don’t want to lose my faculties —
or what makes me me —
if I don’t have you.

You’ve disinfected my cuts and sores,
we’ve used you in medicines,
and… I’m sorry.
You may be rare in this Universe,
but I know how good you are to me,
and I don’t want to let you go.