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

Hassium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#108, Hs)
(8/22/14)

Hassium is a Periodic Table element
that was discovered in nineteen eighty-four.
Apple launched it’s first Macintosh
computer in nineteen eighty-four.
That’s also the same year
the first planet outside of our solar
system was discovered.
Nineteen eighty-four is the year
Nelson Mandela saw his wife
for the first time in twenty-two years.
It’s the same year Walter Payton
achieved the most rushing yards,
and the year Michael Jackson’s hair
was set on fire taping a Pepsi commercial.
It was the year McDonald’s sold
it’s fifty billionth hamburger.
Then again, it’s also the same year
vegetarian Fred Rogers (you know,
From Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood)
it was the same year he donated
his red sweater to the Smithsonian.

Although it had existed for decades,
nineteen eighty-four is the year
the AIDS virus was technically identified.

Don’t get Orwellian on me, but
it was a busy year, nineteen eighty-four.

Named for the German state of Hesse,
this radioactive synthetic element
(that’s an element that can be created
in a lab but is not found in nature)
seems to have a half life – the time
it takes for something to fall
to half its value because of radioactive
decay – it has a half life of only seconds…
But give the scientists some credit,
there have only been a little over
one hundred atoms of  the transactinide
element Hassium synthesized to date.
I know that Russian scientists in Dubna
tried to synthesize this element in 1978,
but Darmstadt scientists in Germany
got it together in nineteen eighty-four.

“So… another radioactive synthetic
element, so what?” is probably
what you’re thinking right now,
and yeah, when it comes to it’s apparent
only value for scientific research
you’re probably right, but check out
this one cool sounding point
for element one oh eight…
According to calculations,
one oh eight is a proton magic number
(which means it is the number
of protons that will arrange into
complete shells in the atomic nucleus) —
and it’s the proton magic number
for deformed nuclei (that means
nuclei that are far from spherical).
This means the nucleus of Hassium 270
may be a deformed doubly magic nucleus.
Okay, it’s more science stuff,
but it’s cool to think
that an isotope of Hassium
can still have a perfectly arranged
nuclear shell in it’s atom,
while still remaining deformed
and look completely out of synch.
Makes sense for a radioactive
element that we created;
makes sense it’s a little off-base,
but still somehow together.
So I guess it’s kind of cool that
we were able to create an element
on the earth-shaking year
of nineteen eighty-four, and
that we’d make something so off-kilter,
but somehow still perfectly in balance,
considering everything it can
potentially do
if we ever made enough
to this radioactive stuff.

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

Fermium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#100, Fm)
including the poem “Each Half is the Enemy”
8/10/13

When the bulldog ant of Australia
is cut in half,
the halves see each other as enemies.

The head attempts to devour the tail.
And the tail,
in an effort to defend itself,

battles for up to thirty minutes
to sting the head.
And this battle happens everywhere

in the world, because life is always
that battle
between the two halves of the whole.

#

Because everything contains that twin,
one part good,
and one part you’ve construed into something

so horribly wrong. And you want to tear it apart,
that other half,
you despise everything about it —

everything that somehow is a part
of you.
So you, in life, always possess that battle.

#

This even applies on a molecular level.
Consider hydrogen:
it’s in our water we drink and bathe in,

and atomically, we’re sixty-seven percent
hydrogen.
But on November first nineteen fifty two,

“Ivy Mike” was the code name
for the first
successful test of the hydrogen bomb.

It’s funny how we can take something
so needed for our life
and, like our sun, turn it into something

to destroy everything we know.
Because as I said,
one side gives life, the other kills.

#

And thanks to “Ivy Mike” and that
hydrogen bomb,
two elements were discovered —

one of them was named after physicist
Enrico Fermi.
You see, Fermi worked on “Chicago Pile-1,”

the first nuclear reactor. Fermi worked
in a space
under Chicago University’s then unused

football stadium bleachers. That’s because
the school
had not used the football stadium

for three years, because the school
thought sports
were a distraction from academics.

Fermi, “the father of the atomic bomb”.
also worked
on the Manhattan project, and Fermilab

outside of Chicago was named after him.
And here’s the kick:
the hydrogen device that produced

Fermium was designed by Richard Garwin,
Enrico Fermi’s student.
So for all that Enrico Fermi had done,

it seems fitting that Fermium is
the heaviest
element formed by the nuclear

bombardment of lighter elements
(like hydrogen).
And this highly radioactive element

was initially kept secret due to the
cold war.
But it’s amazing what we can discover

while taking something we so need
for life,
and turning it into an instrument of death.

#

Because Fermium was classified
in the cold war,
Swiss scientists bombarding oxygen,

discovering an isotope if it, and wanted
to name it
centurium (to honor element one hundred).

Good thing Fermi’s nuclear work got
declassified, so they
could honor Enrico Fermi with “Fermium”.

But wait, Fermium is bad, it’s radioactive,
there can’t be
any good applications for it…

Well, consider the two sides of any twin:
Fermium’s the only
element that can use it’s alpha particles

in radio therapy for cancer. And yes,
it’s radioactive,
but it’s short half life means it decays

quickly. Because as I said, it’s amazing
how two sides
can be both bad, and also so good.

Ununpentium, “Periodic Table ” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Ununpentium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#115, Uup)*

A month before you died,
on the day that she was born,
that was very possibly the last day
I talked to you.
I know you loved me,
but in the grand scheme of things,
you had to know
this relationship couldn’t last.

When you first asked me out,
My answer was quick:
I think it was
a hundred milliseconds
before I said no.
You had to know
that with a half-life so short,
we didn’t stand a chance.

And on that day, February second,
I sat on the other side of the country
at a bar with a man
who introduced me to philosophy.
It was good to see him,
to remind myself
of how I wanted to live.
Remembering how chemical reactions
were supposed to last,
I then realized
the ununtended consequences
of this pent up friction
between us.

Try to smash the right
ions from us together,
see what happens.
See if anything survives
long enough to even measure.

You know you had an uphill battle with me.

#

A hundred and fifteen days
after February 2nd,
three months after you died,
that was when I almost died too.
Because even though you bombarded me
with your high excitation energy,
this hot fusion would never work.

And look at what was left of me.

I didn’t want you to die.
I didn’t want you to be destroyed.
Did you seal your fate
by trying to bond with a part of me,
or should I have trusted my first instincts
so that your destruction would hurt me less.

I wish I could have told you
that this systematic elemental
bombardment of us,
this radioactive reaction,
was only temporary,
this doesn’t occur in nature,
we had to work so hard
to merely try to make something of us.
And as much as I hate to admit it,
I wonder
if this
was never meant to be.

* A Russian and American scientist team bombarded americium-243 with calcium-48 ions to produce ununpentium, historically known as eka-bismuth. Ununpentium is a temporary IUPAC systematic element name derived from the digits 115, where “un” is from the Latin “unum-” for one, and “Pent-” is from the Greek word for 5. Scientists usually just say element 115. Discovered February 2nd, 2004, it has a half life of 200 milliseconds, with decay at 100 milliseconds. (“Hot” fusion reactions deal with the synthesis of nuclei of ununpentium at high excitation energy.)

Francium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kupers

Francium

by Janet Kuypers

of Scars Publications
from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#087, Fr)

Thinking of you,
I’m reminded
of someone taking his mother’s guns
and killing her in an elementary school,
then taking out twenty children,
then five more adults,
before taking his own life.

Remembering your destructive ways
reminds me of going to a movie on opening night
before someone walks in,
cloaked in dark clothes
setting off smoke bombs
before killing anyone he could.

Your metallic personality,
you and your radioactive ways,
you decayed anything you touched.

So you wonder why I correlate you
to any and all destruction,
the way you’d be the instrument of death
by slamming so much fuel,
so much metal, so much life
into the tallest building you could find,
killing anything that crossed your path.

And yeah, I’d correlate you
with the government claiming to play nice
while you helped over eighty faithful followers
disintegrate in a fiery cataclysm.

I’ve seen what you can do.
I can’t help but make the connections.

In such a short burst of time,
you’ve killed seven
in a Sikh temple.

I’ve never seen you for long enough
to think I can know what you
might be like in bulk.
As I’ve said,
I’ve only seen you in these short bursts.

But oh,
what you’ve done
in those
short
bursts.

I think it’s funny
how you unintentionally
chose Hitler’s birthday
to kill thirteen teens,
injure over twenty more,
on an otherwise average school day.

I know, I know you’re rare,
but when I see you,
the world sees you,
and we can’t forget.
I know it’s such a little amount of you
that exists at any time
throughout the entirety of the Earth,
and I know others
have tried to create you synthetically,
to try to learn from you,
but those amounts have still been too small
to make any difference.

It’s sad, that this is the way
you normally are —
your instability make me think
that you just can’t be real—
and I know that your rampages
usually last no more than twenty,
maybe as long as twenty-two minutes.

I’m just afraid
that you are becoming
more and more common in life.

After all of these years,
you have always been rare,
but your repeated appearances
in our lives scare me.
I know that with you, everything falls apart
so suddenly, so quickly so violently.
How much longer
will we cross our fingers,
while we anticipate
our next chance encounter?

Lead, periodic table poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Lead

by Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#082, Pb)

I walked into the bedroom,
opened the closet door,
pulled out the cardboard box,
then opened it to pull out
a pistol case.
I set the piston case down,
opened it,
saw the unloaded twenty-two
and the filled magazine.
I held the magazine
filled with Lead bullets,
reminding myself
that it was always an option.

There’s so much more weight
in those Lead bullets.
They feel heavy in my hand.

Then again,
Lead aprons to protect you from x-rays
are heavy, too.

Lead is so common,
used for thousands of years,
from the Bronze Age,
pushing the Roman economy.
The name for plumbing
even comes from the Latin
“plumbum” because
Lead pipes were used.

And after all these years,
Lead’s not even used
in lead pencils,
that writing stylus
is just a lead mockup. . .

Because Lead comes
from the decay of uranium,
and sometimes could be radioactive,
but still, it can protect you
from things like x-rays
or even nuclear contamination.

So yeah, it can protect you,
and it can also be the missile
in an instrument of death.

As I said,
These bullets
feel so heavy
in my hands.

Astatine in a Fantastic Car Crash

Astatine in a Fantastic Car Crash

by Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

And our life is one big road trip now,
and we set the cruise control
and make our way down the expressway.

And most of the time we’re just moving
in a straight line, and the scenery
blurs. There’s nothing to see.

But I know what’s inside of you
and I know what you’re made of.
There’s no such thing as a calm with you.

You are a fantastic car crash.
You stop traffic in both directions —
In your twisted way, you come from the decay

of others… And what do you leave
in your wake? More radioactive destruction,
as all around you slows down to stare,

and all the gapers gawk, as the decay grows.

Everything shatters with you, you know.
It’s a spectacular explosion,
until your instability corrodes you down

to the basics in the world. And yeah,
what was left of you after you were gone
is so much more stable than what you were,

but still, I’d duck and cover
as metal flies through the air. Every time
you leave the scene of the accident,

I am left picking up the shards of glass
from the windows. You know, the glass breaks
into such tiny little pieces. They look like ice.

It takes so long to pick up the pieces,
and even though I’m careful,
I’m still picking up the pieces

after dealing with only fractional amounts of you.
I’ve only been able to infer what you’re like
by knowing your brethren,

while I’m stuck here, picking up the pieces,
and I’m still on my knees.
The glass cuts into my hands,

because it was only after so much
of your destruction that you left blood
drip
ping down to the street
.

think of this as your contribution,
this radioactive short-term flash of decay

think of this as your contribution

to this fantastic car crash
that is you, that is me,
that is us.

I’ve tried to learn, I’ve tried to study
these microscopic parts of you
to make sense of you…

But whether or not you ever leave enough,
despite your destruction,
despite this decay of yours,

I have to keep reminding myself
that when it comes to you,
This is what you do.

This happens all the time.
So,
I to pull the glass from my hands

and I wave my hand to the line of traffic:
go ahead, keep driving, this happens
all the time, there’s nothing to see here.

Astatine poem by Janet Kuypers

Astatine

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#085, At)
(with references to the poem “Fantastic Car Crash”, 7/3/98)

Everything shatters with you, you know.
I am left picking up the pieces
after dealing with only fractional amounts of you.

I’ve only been able to infer what you’re like
by knowing your brethren, as everyone around me
and all the gapers gawk, as the decay grows.

In your twisted way, you come from the decay
of others… And what do you leave in your wake?
More radioactive destruction, as all around you

slows down to stare, until your instability
corrodes you down to the basics in the world.
And yeah, what was left of you after you were gone

was so much more stable that you were,
but it was only after so much of your destruction
that you left blood dripping down to the street.

So, all I can think is that this continual decay
is your contribution, this radioactive
short-term flash of decay, is you.

I’ve tried to learn, I’ve tried to study these
microscopic parts of you to make sense of you…
But whether or not you ever leave enough,

well, from what you’ve shown me, I have to keep
reminding myself that despite your destruction,
despte this decay of yours, I have to keep going.

Because, when it comes to you,
when it comes to what you do…
This happens all the time.

Copernicium poem by Janet Kuypers

Copernicium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#112, Cn)

It was my love of you
and what you believed in
that made me try to get you.

With your Renaissance ways,
you taught me that I’m not
the center of the Universe,

but I’ve learned since then
to go beyond the sun, because
there is too much out there

to see.

As a scientist, I know you
changed our views of the world.
So science must create you, again.

I know that mathematics
can explain the Universe,
but you were more than a

mathematician, you were
a physician, a translator,
an economist, an astronomer,

an artist.

I know you were a founder
in your time, and the half-life
of what we create may be small…

but I would have to throw
any metal I could into any
isotope I could, like zinc to lead,

just to see if you would
come out for us again. Let us
find you, let us experiment

with you.

Let us accelerate these processes,
cause just the right reactions
to synthesize you and your genius.

I don’t care how we get you,
whether what we do is cold or hot,
when we fuse to create you,

and through all of our work
you may only come to us
after the decay of others

around you.

We’ve learned that only now,
now that we have you, we can
try to work with any part of you,

no matter how unstable
you say you now are. I don’t care.
You’re the last member

transitioning in this series — so now
I can only reflect on your relativity
to planets, like Mercury, as well as

your nobility.

I miss what you’ve done
for how we think in this world.
I miss clear scientific minds.

I only hope that what we’ve done
in your honor does you justice.
Even though we’ve only created you,

I want you to remember
that it is because we wanted
to learn, too, and we wanted you

to guide the way.