Thallium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#81, Tl) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#81, Tl)
started 2/7/14, finished 2/8/14

I swirled the wine glass in my hand.
I watched the red wine swirl,
creeping it’s way to the lip
as I hypnotically observe the vortex.

I like drinking my red wine from those
low, wide-mouthed glasses
so you could smell the sweet aroma
without even drinking. But now,

now I check my fingernails,
looking for dark ridges. I wonder if I
should pull out a few hairs
and check the roots for telltale stripes.

I scan my brain to check if I have enemies,
the coast seems clear, but still I fear
that this precious liquid I hold in my hand
could be the vehicle for my demise.

And no, my liver’s fine, it was just tested,
and I’m not talking about alcohol poisoning
unless it’s because someone put something
in my drink I wouldn’t taste, or smell, or see.

But my brain now flashes to Thallium,
this superconductor, once used to treat
syphilis, gonorrhea, or even tuberculosis
is such a highly toxic heavy metal

that it was used for rat poisoning,
and sometimes even for hair removal
(yeah, trace amounts of Thallium can even
make you lose your hair). But the thing is,

I’ve heard that if you drop it into somethnig like,
say, red wine, no one would be the wiser
and you could kill someone without your victim
even knowing they were ever in danger.

If I keep this up, I’ll really start to worry
whenever my stomach hurts, whenever I feel
nauseous, or even have diarrhea.
If I feel numbness, or tingling and pain,

I’ll second-guess myself. I’ll have to check
the shower drain for excessive hair loss,
and I’ll check my fingernails and follicles again
to make sure I’m in the clear.

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


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,
(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.

Rutherfordium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#104, Rf) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#104, Rf)

And when I get that engagement ring…
I don’t want Zirconium, I want a diamond!
I want something stronger!
Even the band,
everyone wants Gold,
but Platinum is stronger,
even Tungsten
(which has a cool goth sound to it)…
What’s the strongest element out there – Iridium?
Hey, that’s the stuff that was in the asteroid
that killed all the dinosaurs!
‘Cuz that stuff’s so strong that it’s brittle
and can’t even be bent into a wedding band…
But I want the biggest, strongest ring on my finger
because I want EVERYONE to know
that I’m gonna be the bride!

Because I’ve really had my heart set
on this one amazing man, Ernest.
(Isn’t that the coolest name, Ernest?
I mean, I’m being earnest with you,
that’s his name, and it sounds so cool!)
You see, he’s from the Rutherford family
and I’m so taken with him.
Oh, and get this, he was born in New Zealand
and now lives in the U.K. — this man
must know the world,
and I think I’m gonna melt!
But the things is, whenever he’s around
he’s only around for fleeting moments,
he mixes with friends
and his isotopes are around for as long as an hour,
but sometimes only for ten minutes,
and sometimes just for a minute or two…
So I ever get the chance to be with him
long enough to tell him how I feel.

My friends tell me not to bother,
because his radioactive personality
(that I’m so drawn to)
means that if I get too close
he might be trouble for me.

Well, I may not be the smartest girl
if he is such a strong and intelligent man,
but I’ve been doing all the research I can
about him. When it comes to researh,
I want to work with him,
and I want to learn.
I only hope he’ll let me.