Seaborgium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#105, Sg) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Seaborgium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#105, Sg)
7/28/14 (started 7/27/14)

I’ve always loved the sea.
When standing at these Pacific shores
I’m always intoxicated by the action there,
at the vibrancy, the sense of life.
I’ve always been drawn to the idea of learning,
to California’s desire to explore and discover.

#

There was a scientist, Glenn Seaborg,
who later worked through U of C Berkeley.
And when it comes to discovery in California,
Seaborg really had a hold on the chemistry market.
Because during his career, he did theoretical work
in the development of the Actinide series
in the Periodic Table, and he even helped discover
ten elements (many in that Actinide series).

But one element that wasn’t in the Actinides series
that he helped discover, element one oh six,
that was the element people petitioned
to be named after him (you know, because
of all he had discovered for the Periodic Table).
But scientists in Dubna Russia were also wanting
to claim the naming rights for element one oh six,
and naming this element after Seaborg
caused quite a stir, because elements
are only named after dead people, they said.
But the Americans actually pulled it off
and got the new element named Seaborgium.

Transuranium elements like Seaborgium
are only artificially made with particle accelerators,
and I know those scientists,
after finding elements that way
only acquire one or two atoms,
and they can only guess the element’s properties
by their location on the Periodic Table…
I mean, Seaborgium’s isotopes
have half lives only seconds long,
and there’s no use we know of for Seaborgium
other than scientific research
(like for scientists like Seaborg or Albert Ghiorso,
or the leader of that Seaborgium discovery team).

But after the element was named Seaborgium,
and since Seaborgium is the only element
named after a living person,
it may have been possible
to send Glenn Seaborg a letter
addressed in chemical elements:
send it to Seaborgium,
in lawrencium (for his Lawrence Berkeley Lab),
in the city berkelium,
in the state californium,
and
(if the letter’s being mailed
from outside the U.S.)
in the country americium…
I don’t know if any letters like this
actually got through to him,
but for a man with that many
discoveries under his belt,
sending letters to him
using only Periodic Table elements
almost seems like icing on the cake.

Hydrogen Cyanide, bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (for Hydrogen, element #01, H) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Hydrogen Cyanide

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#01, H)
started 9/5/13, edited 9/19/13 and 9/21/13, finished 9/22/13

He was once a college chemistry professor, so he
hoped he was a shoe-in to work with the Waffen-SS.

He ended up working at the Rundfunkhaus —
a Berlin radio station broadcasting Nazi propaganda.

But after his university was bombed, he took
what he could get and was grateful for work

that didn’t require him to use a gun. But when
the Science and Research Department at

the Reich Main Security Office gave him orders
to go to the Dachau camp to retrieve paperwork,

he solemnly went home to pack for his two-day
trip, driving there one day, returning home the next.

#

He’d seen the Sachsenhausen concentration camp,
35 kilometres north of Berlin, but Sachsenhausen

was more of a training centre for Schutzstaffel officers
before the SS men were sent to oversee other camps.

And although Dachau was small, it was essentially
the first, and set the standard for all of Hitler’s camps.

He felt the tension knot in his stomach grow,
even before saying goodbye his wife and two children.

#

Arriving at the camp the next afternoon, he learned
the lieutenant general was away from his office,

so he could only get the necessary paperwork
the next morning. Which left him alone

at the camp, in a stranger’s office. He paced.
A part of him didn’t want to go out there,

there was safety inside these office walls.
Here he could remain separate from the war.

#

After nearly an hour of pacing, he decided
to just go out there. Face it. Get it over with.

And when he stepped outside the air felt heavy;
he could feel the weight of the move he made,

the weight of his legs grew heavier; he dragged
his feet, making his way to the open walkway.

Although there was that heavy haze in the air,
he knew what chemical reactions had occurred

to leave that distinct smell in the smoke
and haze working it’s way through the air.

He saw across the clearing the doors close to the
“showers”, so he walked with a determination

to bring himself to the hall. He could hear
the sounds of people inside grow louder,

but he then caught a glimpse of a guard
that just made his way to the roof. As he

got closer, he watched the soldier open
what looked like a can, then shake it

into the vent at the centre of the building,
before closing the vent and walking across

the roof before taking the ladder back down.
From the moment anything from that can

made it’s way into that building, with
every subsequent step he took, he could hear

the wails and screams get louder and louder
from the Jews inside. He stopped for a moment.

Look, he thought, he knew what this was,
get used to this, was all he could think to himself

to get his heavy feet moving again. He
caught the soldier walking down the ladder

from the building, and quickened his pace
to catch him before he got far from the building.

Not able to see the ranking on his uniform shirt,
he quickened his pace to not yell for the soldier.

With the soldier still holding the jar in his hand,
he asked if he could see the can. Once he had it

in his hands, he looked at all elements on the label.
Zyklon B. Hydrogen Cyanide. He knew

this poisonous liquid boiled just above room
temperature, so he knew that all they had to do

was drop some from a sealed can into the open hall,
poisoning thousands in only twenty minutes.

He knew the Germans first thought of using
this Prussic acid against Napoleon in eighteen

thirteen — and if they had, it would have been
the first time Hydrogen Cyanide was used in warfare…

But look at him now, the chemistry professor,
reduced to thinking of how all the Jews inhaled

the bitter almond smell of Hydrogen Cyanide,
until it combined with their red blood cells,

causing death from oxygen starvation.
He suddenly felt he needed to take a deep

breath, get in all the oxygen he could. He saw
the blue stains on the concrete walls, then walked

back to the soldier to give him the empty can,
when the soldier, making small talk, said

“one of the older Jews pleaded to me,
‘I’m a decorated vet from WWI, I was in an

artillery battalion, we shot gas shells at the
British and Americans, I shouldn’t be here,

my paperwork’s with my luggage—’ And they
just kept telling him to go into the showers…”

And he knew in WWI we shot these shells into trenches
in France, so he shrugged and gave a slight grin,

to commiserate with the soldier, but he knew
that everyone fights their own battles in this war.

He was only a lieutenant, a lower-ranking attache
than the colonel who sent him on this job,

but he still held rank over this soldier, so he told
the soldier that once there were no screams inside

and they opened the doors to bring everyone
to the crematoriums, he wanted to be notified.

Then he walked away. At fifty metres he clutched
at his pockets to find his cigarettes and lighter;

he wanted anything to calm him down and help
him focus on anything else until it was time.

#

He stood in the field, chain smoking, until
he heard the running footsteps in the distance.

He looked at his pocket watch. Twenty minutes
had passed, as he saw a soldier running

toward him. He looked at the gas chamber
and saw they had opened the doors, so he started

his methodical walk back to where he was
destined to go. He acknowledged the soldier

with a wave, and quickened his pace
to the building. He saw a few different soldiers

this time, all waiting until the cloud of gas
was cleared from the chamber so they could work.

He walked to the doorway. It was dark,
but he could make out a pyramid of people

toward that small now closed centre vent.
From what he could tell, it looked like the Jews

tossed the babies and small children toward
the top, in an effort to keep the children alive.

One of the soldiers passed him as he stared,
so he asked him how long he had been doing this.

“Nearly a year,” he answered. So he had to ask
if doing this, if seeing this, bothered him.

The man only answered, “If you do something
long enough, you get used to anything.”

With that, he nodded slightly, and knew
he saw enough. He walked away.

#

Early the next morning, he came back to the offices
at the Dachau concentration camp, so he could

get his paperwork as quickly as possible, so he
could get out of there as quickly as possible.

#

The tension knot grew smaller in his stomach
the closer he got to his home in that drive,

but as he came to his home, he saw his wife
sitting outside their home, with all the widows open.

Once he got out of the car, he could hear
her coughing, sounding more and more hoarse

with each gasp. He only wanted to hold her,
but concern overtook him as she explained

that she just used a pesticide fumigant
throughout the house, and she could

no longer breathe while inside those walls.
He looked to the second floor of the house

for the children, and she told him they were
each staying the night at friends homes.

And suddenly he imagined that fumigant
that’s killing the vermin inside their home —

Hydrogen Cyanide was now in their home.
A form of Zyklon B was now in their home.

All she was trying to do was kill the vermin,
and he thought of the propaganda ministry

he now worked for, telling the nation to believe
that the Jews are the rats, the Jews are the vermin.

So he looked at their home, and told her
they would get out of here tonight, as far

as they possibly could. He then held her close
before they walked away, holding hands.

Molybdenum, Periodic Table poem by Janet Kuypers

Molybdenum

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#035;042, Mo)

I love this country.
We should protect our rights.

 
Gotta love
our military-
industrial
complex.

 
We gotta protect ourselves —

I’ll use everything I can
to be the one on top.

 
I know I’ve used you,

but it was wartime,
you gotta understand.

 
You gave me speed,

You were light on your feet,
but stiff as a board.

 
When things got hot,
you stood up to anything.

 
and I liked flexing my muscles with you.

 
I know it was wartime,

but I would have
made a Japanese sword outa you,

if I coulda put you together right.

 
And I know, I know,
you say I need you
for all my amino acids

to keep my innerds running,

 
but I’m still on my war-kick here,

‘cause when it’s war time,
that’s when I need you most.

 
People say that war’s no good,

but I say
you’re the meaning of life.

 
I love the U. S. of A.,

and with you by my side,
we can shove a boot up their ass —

it’s the American way.

Lutetium poem by Janet Kuypers

Lutetium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#71, Lu)

When I was little
and first fell in love
with the stars in the sky,
it was always easy
to spot the constellation
Cassiopeia at night —
just look for five dots
that looked like the letter “w”
as the throne for Cassiopeia,
queen of Aethiopia.
But apparently the Germans
had a thing for Cassiopeia too,
because an Austrian,
a Frenchman and an American
all independently discovered
the element Lutetium
at the same time…
After years of debate,
the Frenchman won
the naming rights for Lutetium,
but the Germans still
stuck with Cassiopeia
for their name-of-choice
through the nineteen fifties.

But I don’t know, maybe
this element Lutetium
was the perfect thing
for queen Cassiopeia,
because although it is
more common than silver
here on Earth,
it’s hard to separate
from other elements,
and it’s harder and denser
than it’s counterparts
(even costing ten thousand
dollars per kilogram).

#

If I could have photographed
queen Cassiopeia,
I may have wanted
Lutetium aluminum garnet
as the liquid element
in immersion lithography
for added depth-of-focus
in my photo journalism travails…
Though maybe I should just
savor the connection
between queen Cassiopeia
(with her throne in the sky),
the mother of Andromeda
(goddess and galaxy),
and Lutetium —
something that has always
been so strong,
and has also worked
with others, to help us see
everything so much better…

lutetium electron structure
    * Germans used cassiopium (Cp), after the constellation Cassiopeia, as the name for element 71 (Lutetium) until the 1950s.
Lutetium is not a particularly abundant element, though significantly more common than silver in the earth’s crust; it has few specific uses, but is found with almost all other rare-earth metals but never by itself.
Lutetium is very difficult to separate from other elements, and pure Lutetium metal is very difficult to prepare. Even though it is more common than silver, it is one of the rarest and most expensive of the rare earth metals with the price about US$10,000 per kilogram, or about one-fourth that of gold. Lutetium also has the highest density, melting point, and hardness of the lanthanides.
For an application for Lutetium: Immersion lithography is a photolithography resolution enhancement technique for manufacturing integrated circuits (ICs) that replaces the usual air gap between the final lens and the wafer surface with a liquid medium that has a refractive index greater than one. Currently, the most promising high-index lens material is Lutetium aluminum garnet.

Nobelium poem by Janet Kuypers

Nobelium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#102, No)*

I never saw you.
You were the one thing
we were all looking for —
peace —
and we didn’t know
what it would look like
when we found it.

If we found it.

I heard that Sweden
laid claim to you first,
but I swear,
we were all searching for you,
and I think that like most Americans
we would even try to synthesize you
in order to lay claim to you.

Listen to me,
like all Americans,
laying claim to you.
Possessing you.

Maybe you’ve kept yourself
so well hidden
because we’ll never learn
how to live in peace…
Maybe we can only take peace
in small amounts,
mixed with our usual
anger and discontent.

I know you’ve been around
for so very long,
and I can’t remember
how many years
we’ve been searching for you.

Had your hair grown
to silvery white or gray
waiting for us
to truly want peace?
Have you grown rough and metallic
in your impatience with us?
Would you be a hazard to us
if we took you in
in sufficient amounts?

Because, we want to take that chance.
Because we’ve been looking,
and we’ve been waiting for you.
    * The discovery of element 102 was first announced by physicists at the Nobel Institute in Sweden in 1957. The synthesis of element 102 was then claimed in April 1958 at the University of California, Berkeley. Element 102 was first named nobelium (No) by its claimed discoverers in 1957 by scientists at the Nobel Institute in Sweden. The name was later adopted by Berkeley scientists who claimed its discovery in 1959. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) officially recognised the name nobelium following the Berkeley results. In 1994, and subsequently in 1997, the IUPAC ratified the name nobelium (No) for the element on the basis that it had become entrenched in the literature over the course of 30 years and that Alfred Nobel should be commemorated in this fashion.
Little is known about the element but limited chemical experiments have shown that it forms a stable divalent ion in solution as well as the predicted trivalent ion that is associated with its presence as one of the actinides.
The appearance of this element is unknown, however it is most likely silvery-white or gray and metallic. If sufficient amounts of nobelium were produced, it would pose a radiation hazard.