Cadmium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#048, Cd)
(stemming from “You’ve Already Paid for This”, written 09/14/09)

The battered woman
entered the all-night
gas station/grocery store.
The attendant sees
the man waiting in the car.
He looks
tense and angry.

The attendant looks at the woman.

is all she said.
The attendant glances at the car,
then looks at the rows of cigarettes
over the counter.
The woman says,
“it’s for my husband.”

The attendant asks,
“Which kind?”
The woman absent-mindedly says

The attendant
reaches for the package.

The attendant thinks
that even though there is more
of the poisonous Cadmium
in the food we eat,
the Cadmium’s easily absorbed
when you breathe it in
through these smokes.

Studies have even found links
between Cadmium and cancer,
the attendant thinks.

So the attendant looks at the woman
hands her the cancer sticks,
and thinks,
“you’ve probably
paid for this.”
Even though Cadmium
is used for pigments,
or nickel Cadmium batteries,
smokers get four to five times
more Cadmium in their blood,
and two to three times
more Cadmium in their kidneys.

The woman closes her purse.
The attendant closes the register.
Give it time,
was all
the attendant thought
as the woman left.