(bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, based on Potassium, #19, K)
Once worked for a company
who stopped selling their drugs
to state correctional facilities
who used them in cocktails
to kill their prisoners. The company
didn’t have the moral issue —
but religious and political
groups did, and companies
couldn’t justify selling drugs
as sedatives to hospitals
when those same drugs
were used to kill people.
Then I learned that in the cocktail,
pentobarbital was the sedative,
pavulon was the paralytic agent,
and Potassium Chloride killed them.
So I instantly remembered
that us humans need Potassium,
but nobody will sell supplements
because too much Potassium
could easily kill a person.
So, too much of an element
that we need for life
can kill us. Fascinating.
But it’s not straight Potassium
that they use in lethal injections,
it’s Potassium Chloride —
so I wondered, but why
is it not just straight Potassium?
That’s when I heard
that if you take Potassium straight
it would burn, so they use this
metal halide of Potassium with chlorine.
How nice of them, because it would
be cruel if prisoners were in pain
before we killed them. That would be
cruel of us.
More than a decade after my state
imposed a moratorium on executions,
then the death penalty was abolished.
And I know the death penalty
costs us taxpayers much more money
than keeping prisoners alive for life.
The death penalty’s not a deterrent,
and the death penalty does take
innocent lives from wrongful convictions.
But all that’s stuck in my head
right now is the Potassium Chloride,
things our body needs, to kills us.
I reflect on the late-night leg cramps
because we don’t get enough Potassium.
Chloride’s needed for metabolism,
and Potassium’s one of the most
important electrolytes in our body.
Still, too much of it can kill us.
It must, somehow, makes sense
that we humans take these elements
and use them as an instrument of death.
I’m afraid I know how us humans think,
of course. It makes perfect sense.