Aluminum poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

On our wedding anniversary,
I try to remember
annual anniversary gifts:
we’ve passed wood, copper, iron,
and are just passing tin, steel,
and aluminum now.
What on Earth do I buy
for a gift that’s aluminum?
I don’t think he wants
an aluminum briefcase.
Aluminum picture frame
magnets won’t work
on our stainless steel fridge.
Brushed aluminum wall tiles
over our kitchen sink
might be a good idea,
but that’s hardly
an anniversary gift…
The beaten square
aluminum cufflinks
look pretty good,
but I think the only time
he wore cufflinks
was on our wedding day.
So really, aluminum?
Oh, I suppose
the pliability of aluminum
shows how our marriage
needs to be flexible
and durable, and like
aluminum, which can be bent
without being broken,
we have to learn to bend
to each other’s wills
so that we can be
stronger when we’re together.
And we are.

With the low density
of aluminum, it is
the third most abundant
element here on Earth.
But the things is,
the aluminum metal
is too reactive chemically
to occur natively on Earth,
so it’s usually found
combined in ways with
over two hundred seventy
different minerals.

So, we see aluminum
because it mixes well
with others.
Good thing it’s pliable,
ductile, malleable.
Better thing it’s durable,
to withstand
the test of time.

And the thing is,
I’ve studied these elements
to see how they are needed
in the human body,
and despite aluminum’s
abundance on Earth,
it actually has no known
function in biology.
It’s remarkably nontoxic,
but because in the body
it competes with calcium
for absorption, it might
even lead to Osteoporosis…
Okay, I won’t eat this element,
I won’t use it in cookware.
Good thing I don’t need
antacids (which may
contain aluminum),
and although
I’ve never seen aluminum
in antiperspirants,
some researchers
have postulated
that using antiperspirants
with aluminum
may increase the risk
or breast cancer,
or potentially
Alzheimer’s disease.

(Great news
for the woman
with breast cancer
in her family history.
Great news
for the woman
with a previous
brain injury, so I
should watch for
Alzheimer’s disease.
Now I have more reasons
to worry about ingesting
the “nontoxic” aluminum.)

It’s funny, aluminum
was first used
in car engineering
and architecture
(those must have been
strong cars and buildings—
wait, they were “durable”,
but also, I’m afraid,
“flexible”, for
cars and buildings),
but then aluminum was used
in jewelry and fashion.
Kind of like
those cufflinks,
I suppose.
In the meantime,
I’m going to
grab some leftovers
from the fridge,
get it out of the
aluminum foil
and eat before pondering
what his anniversary
present should be.