Erbium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Erbium

Janet Kuypers

(poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #68, Er)
6/27/14

On the east coast,
shopping once
with a gay friend of mine,
we walked past a guard
at the empty clothing store
to browse for clothes.
My friend held up
a pink shirt,
asked my opinion.
I looked at it,
then at him
and said,
“I’m not a pink person,”
and we both turned
to the clothing racks.
I walked to a farther rack
and pulled out
this goth girls’ color of choice,
held up the black shirt
for his opinion.
Since he was farther away,
he responded loud enough
to confuse the large
African-American guard
when he said,
“I’m not a black person…”

And I don’t care if “PINK”
is the largest ad campaign
of a national lingerie company.
And okay, the pink ribbon
is an honor to my mom
and breast cancer research.
But I’ve never had
a love of the color
until I heard of metals
glowing in a brilliant
pink luminescence.
Because in the science of spectroscopy
(analyzing light from chemicals
through a prism), scientists discovered
stunning pink crystals that glinted alluringly
that would glow even more brilliantly
under fluorescent lights.
That has to be the element Erbium…
And any Erbium compounds
are invariably a faint pink, and —
wait a minute,
why am I going on
about Erbium
and it’s very distinct pinkness?
Well, there were spectroscopic bands
in the infrared part of the spectrum
of Erbium, and these allow Erbium
to not scatter light (or data)
in optical fibres
(the kind for all phone calls
or all Internet data transfer).
Optical fibres are gossamer thin
threads of glass, and they are
a rare optical perfection
that needs just the right element
to carry our voices,
or carry all data
without losing it to the atmosphere.

And if that element has to be pink,
then I guess Erbium
can give me another reason
to like the color pink too.

Okay, it’s all about the Oxygen, bonus “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Okay, it’s all about the Oxygen

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (&#035l8, O)
9/6/13

Okay, so I like to think of myself
as a history buff.

And no, I don’t pay attention to
American history,
or even the details of, like, the ancient
Roman Empire
or anything – for the most part,
I’m not even
interested in the history of people…
To quote Linus
in Peanuts, “I love mankind, it’s people
I can’t stand”…

Yeah, I know, my history’s older than the
human race:
how was this Solar System formed?
Or the Earth?
How was this planet able to sustain life
so that we humans
could sit around thinking about
this stuff?

As I said, when I think history,
all I can do
is gather evidence and theorize…
But really,
that just shows that there are times
when I’m actually
transfixed on a truly more universal
puzzle.

#

So look, I know I’ve studied way back
to when matter
didn’t even exist yet in this Universe,
or how matter formed.
I know theories about asteroids bringing
the building blocks
of life itself to this planet. And sure,
scientists think comets
brought water to planet Earth, too.
But when I think
of early Earth, when it formed, it was a real
mess, there were
constant bombardments with objects
from outer space,
volcanoes were going off constantly,
and the atmosphere
was all sulfur and methane, thanks
to the volatility
of Earth mach one. And okay, comets
may have brought water,
and water has Oxygen in it, but really,
back then the atmosphere
was a bunch of un-breathable stuff
to us humans.

Okay, so because there was no Oxygen
in the atmosphere,
any life that started on Earth mach one
probably thought
Oxygen was poisonous. (Because okay,
I know there’s nitrogen
in our atmosphere, but if there was
no Oxygen
and it was replaced by sulfur
we couldn’t live,
but early life living in a sulfur-rich
environment
may find Oxygen is toxic to them, right?)

Okay, so I know
the universal historian inside of me
wanted to know
how Oxygen actually got into our air,
so human life
(or any life as we know it here on Earth)
could actually begin.

#

Okay, so paleontologists study fossils,
and the found some
that are two hundred million years old,
like in Earth mach one.
Think about it: this was cyanobacteria from
two hundred million
years ago, near what scientists now call
the great Oxygen event
(which is what they call the biologically
induced
appearance of Oxygen in the air).
Well anyway,
in Earth mach one, any Oxygen that existed
was just dissolved
by the molten iron (that same iron
that formed
the Earth’s inner core, I imagine).
But the thing is,
this cyanobacteria used photosynthesis,
making Oxygen.
And once there was so much Oxygen
that it couldn’t be
dissolved into the then saturated reserves,
all that Oxygen
stayed in our atmosphere instead.

#

I don’t know, I keep trying to piece together
this puzzle,
but this whole ‘Universe puzzle’ is a pretty
massive endeavor.
I mean okay, all matter that we can monitor
only takes up
maybe four percent of this Universe.
And I still don’t
know how to fit the idea of Dark Matter
into this puzzle
I’ve been working on… So maybe
I’ll have to reassess
learning everything about everything right now,
and work
with stuff like the Oxygen around me
instead…

Beauty in the Eyes of Einsteinium, bonus “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Beauty in the Eyes of Einsteinium

Janet Kuypers

Bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #099, Es
based on the poems “Beauty in the Eyes of Einstein” and “Einsteinium”
9/30/13

Einstein dismissed some of his theories —
even some we may know all too well.

Einstein didn’t like some of his theories
because he thought they weren’t beautiful.

And I wonder:
what is beauty?

Is it the geomagnetic aberrations
of the Aurora Borealis
dancing along the horizon
at the arctic circle?

Is it the eternally changing
wisps of volcanic trails
in the Saturn moon Titan’s atmosphere?

Or is it converting matter into pure energy
with just the right formula?

We ask, what is beauty?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
So it makes me wonder…

Einstein understood
that everything was relative…

Because once he fathomed
the relationship
between matter and energy,
once he understood
the interconnectivity
between matter and energy —

he understood that his knowledge
in the hands of evil men
could mean that his Fatherland,
the land he escaped from,
he understood that Hitler and the Third Reich
could be working on an atomic bomb,
converting so little matter
into so much devastating energy.

Einstein understood the gravity
of his writing a letter
to appeal to Roosevelt
to create this bomb,
to protect us from Germany.

Now:
imagine the finality
of naming an element discovered
after the first explosion
of the hydrogen bomb
after
Albert Einstein.

Because really,
in a way,
it’s
ironically
beautiful.

So we ask, what is beauty?

Because chemists will make it clear
that Einsteinium
has no known uses…
But think about it:
is there any logical reason
to grow a certain flower
and purchase it at inflated prices
to give to someone you’re smitten with
on an early date?
Is there any logical reason
to accept the De Beers company
global stranglehold
over stopping the release
of an otherwise common crystal
so that a loved one can cherish
a clear stone on their left finger
to show the world
that they’re otherwise
“taken”?
Is there any logical reason
to claim a song
for a slow dance
on your wedding day?

Logically?
Of course not.
But we do it anyway,
we keep dried rose petals
from that infatuating relationship,
women constantly ooh and aah
over engagement ring sizes,
and married people
intrinsically feel
they have to dance
when they hear
their wedding song.

How illogical.
But how beautiful.

So we ask what is beauty.
And all scientists seem to
use Einsteinium for now
is basic scientific research,
but that seems oddly fitting,
since that is what
Einstein did best.
To think.
To research.

And that
is beautiful.