“Diburnium”, bonus sci-fi poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicgo poet Janet Kuypers

Diburnium

Janet Kuypers

(bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #122, Db)
7/27/14

Spending another Saturday night alone,
I watched an old episode of Star Trek.
In this episode, Captain Kirk, McCoy and Sulu
were beamed down to a planet
with no magnetic field.

After the Enterprise
disappeared from their sensors,
Kirk hears Sulu say, “The basic substance
of this planet is an alloy of Diburnium-osmium.”

And my brain stopped
when I heard this elemental scrap.
I wracked my brain, ‘wait a minute,
I know osmium, it’s the densest metal
in the Periodic Table. But Diburnium?’

I know Star Trek mentions many elements
and isotopes when they talk science,
hydrogen, it’s isotope deuterium,
transparent aluminum, even dilithium
(which scientists are trying to use now
to boost speed for long distance space travel)…
So I had to research this elusive Diburnium.

Now, the Memory Alpha at Star Trek Wiki
confirmed that an abandoned Kalandan outpost
was built on an artificial planet
composed of a Diburnium-osmium alloy. And
according to the Starfleet Medical Reference Manual,
the element Diburnium had the symbol Db,
atomic weight 319, and atomic number 122.
Okay, this poet’s paying far too much attention
to the Periodic Table, but I know
that right now 118 is as high as the Table goes,
but like a Periodic Table addict
I still had to look into science fiction
that piqued my curiosity.
The Star Trek Freedom Wiki explained
that Diburnium is a metallic element
with phaser-resistant qualities.
Okay fine, maybe I’ll worry
about these undiscovered elements
only once they’re discovered,
because without actual phasers
to worry about in the present,
I think I’ll stick with the elements
we do know right now…

Bohrium, from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicgo poet Janet Kuypers

Bohrium

Janet Kuypers

(from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #107, Bh)
8/31/14

This isn’t boring.
You won’t be bored with the details —
anyone interested in different kinds of attraction
should listen close…

Because Bohrium isn’t boring
if you find fusion fascinating.
Think about it for a minute —
what are the conditions
that bring two bodies together
so they join to create something new?

#

Think back the the times of year
when you have met people you later dated.
Was it in the summertime,
when the temperature was high,
when you were feeling all hot and bothered
when you saw that special someone
that you were instantly attracted to?
Maybe you were taking a break from school
or going to the beach to relax,
make yourself look just perfect
for that one chance encounter
that will lead to so much more…
        (Hate to tell you this,
        but that hot weather attraction
        is a lot like a hot fusion…
        Chemically speaking, after atoms are split apart,
         “fusion” is the art of getting different parts
        to come together to create something new.
        The sun’s a natural fusion reactor.
        Nucear reactors perform fission to split atoms,
        nuclear fusion, or “hot fusion” uses all it’s energy
        to slam those elemental atoms into each other,
        so they’re more likely to break apart
        and their parts can create new elements or isotopes.
        This is how scientists discover synthetic elements.)

But sometimes, sometimes, that attraction can come
not when the temperature is sizzling hot,
but when things seem bitter cold
and warm bodies have a tendency
to group together to conserve their heat.

I suppose you can say I     am “bonded” with someone now,
and when we met on a train commuting from work
it was the middle of January in a cold Chicago winter,
I was fully adorned in a winter coat, a hat,
gloves, a headband for my ears,
boots, a scarf covering my face.
Who knows, maybe that not-so-hot weather
gave us more of a reason to bond,
since it was only three months after we met
that we became engaged for marriage.

        (And I hate to say this, but scientifically
        there is a method of fusion for this as well.
        Cold fusion is technically the fusion of things
        merely at room temperature
        and not after nuclear super-excitement.)

And as I said, I didn’t want to bore you with these details,
but there are a lot of ways fusion like that
can even help in the discovery of new elements,
like Bohrium.
Because back in eighty one, element one oh seven
was discovered after bombarding bismuth two of nine
with accelerated nuclei of chromium fifty four.
They only produced five atoms of Bohrium 262,
but man, were they excited…
They were so attracted to Niels Bohr
that they wanted to name their element
nielsbohrium for the Danish physicist.
But wait, Russian scientists originally
wanted to name element one of five nielsbohrium,
so the Germans here at one of seven said
hey, we wanted to give props to Neils Bohr
for his work in cold fusion (since that was used
for the discovery of this element).
So the Russians relented,
but the element naming commission
said, wait a minute, we’ve never
named an element after the full name of anyone,
so, after they temporarily called it unnilseptium
(Uns, Latin for one oh seven),
they settled for just the last name
and crowned this new gem Bohrium.

And yeah, there are tons of isotopes of Bohrium
from all that atom smashing and bonding
with half lives from a quarter millisecond
to ninety minutes,
but there aren’t many atoms of the stuff,
so all of it’s properties are only extrapolated
from knowing it’s place in the Periodic Table.
But still, know how fusing things together
is the only way to make this new element,
makes you put a whole new spin on bonding,
attachment, creating something new,
that almost puts a glimmer in your eye
and makes you smile again.

Berkelium, a poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicgo poet Janet Kuypers

Berkelium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#79, Bk)
(started 8/15/14, finished 8/22/14)

The streets of town were paved with stars,
it was such a romantic affair
and when we kissed and said good night
a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

A nightingale sang in Berkeley square.
Berkeley. B, E, R, K, E, L, E, Y.
You see, on the other side of the pond
the Brits have a different way of saying things,
including the name of the Anglo Irish
philosopher George Berkley.
That’s B, E, R, K, L, E, Y, like
you’re barking up the wrong tree,
but when a city and University in California
was named after this philosopher,
well, the pronunciation changed
after it crossed the ocean.
And because of scientific work done
at the University of Berkley,
they decided to name element seventy nine
after the University (it’s actually
only one of two elements in the Periodic Table
named after a university).
So, I don’t really know
how you’re supposed to pronounce it,
should I say berk-lee-um like the States,
or the British ber-keel-ee-yum,
because I’ve been trying to learn
a thing or two about Berkelium.
And the thing is, it’s never found
in it’s pure form,
because this transuranic radioactive
and artificially produced element
is a soft, silvery-white, actinide metal
that sometimes has long half lives
through it’s isotopes
(that range from microseconds to several days,
to three hundred thirty days, to nine years
to one thousand three hundred eighty years).
So maybe I’m only meant
to learn about parts of it
by these fleeting dances
scientists have with Berkelium…

Ununtrium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Ununtrium
Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#113, Uut)
elements derived from the poem“Tall Man”
10/23/13

I can never hold you.
But when I step
within those walls
where I first found you,
I can then feel your presence
across the room.
A movement, a stir.
I feel it.
I can sense you
as the seconds slip by,
but after only
twenty moments,
I snap out of it.
I know you’re gone.

I compare you
to your friends,
and your heaviness
weighs me down.
You, with your long shadow
stretched across those walls,

you’ll only disappear again.

An occasional glance —
I’ll take whatever I can take.
Glimpses of your strength
is all I can capture
before you seem to
dart away
at what seems
to be
the speed of light.

You’re a stranger.
You stay tightly wound in your world.
But I want crack
your dense shell.
I want to know you.

I’ve sensed you.

And for some reason,
I feel I know you all too well.

Smelling Sulphur on Nine One One, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Smelling Sulphur on Nine One One

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#016 S)
9/11/13

I’m a journalist.
I can remember
the sounds of the newsroom
as I finished my articles
at one of the computers.
I can still hear
the sounds of the bustling,
of the rushing toward a deadline.

The shuffling of papers
was a constant presence
when you worked.

Hearing that low hum,
that din of action and activity
is almost comforting
to types like us.
It was the base beat
to the symphony of our lives.

So, when you hear the words
nine one one,
you think of the number to dial
when you hear of more gun violence
on these Chicago streets.
You smell the Sulfur
in the gunpowder,
another sense
that accentuates the center
of the world around us…

But on a beautifully
sunny day like today,
you come into the newsroom
in the early morning,
and the sound of action
has yet to truly penetrate the ears
of these reporters,
with a styrofoam coffee cup in one hand,
crumpled pages of edited copy in the other.

But on this sunny morning,
the din was different,
much more cacophonous,
much more rushed,
while still so hushed.
I made my way
to one of the TV sets
along the main wall,
all were on different channels
showing different bits of news,
though all suddenly seemed the same.
It looked like the newsroom
was watching a movie
as smoke poured
from one of the Twin Towers.
I tried to make out the voices
from one of the TV sets
when I witnessed a plane —
right before my eyes —
fly into the other Tower.

I stood for a moment,
transfixed like some
horror movie addict,
before I thought of our contacts
scattered along the east coast.
I pulled out my cell phone
and speed dialed Mark in New York,
he had a meeting scheduled
in the Twin Towers that morning,
but the phone was jammed,
so I dialed up Don
who was in town there this week,
but all was lost
to computer-simulated voices,
forcing me to leave messages
and scramble from afar.

As pathetic as we were,
we stared at TVs
as most forms of communication
were cut off for us.
Was this an attack on New York,
we struggled to discover
until less than forty minutes later
we saw the two-second long film
replayed repeatedly
from a D.C. security camera
that caught a collision course
crashing of a plane
through the outer rings
of the Pentagon.

Well.
Now the story has changed.

Try to get through
to Dan in D.C.,
was he in the Pentagon today.
The phones still cut me off.
So we scrambled for any data,
looking for a Chicago connection:
the Sears Tower,
the John Hancock building,
these are national icons
that may be under attack…
But before we could gain our bearings,
only twenty-five minutes passed
before a plane crashed
into the ground
near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Shanksville, I thought,
I know someone there,
I searched, and found
Anna’s number,
but who was I kidding.
Those lines were cut off too.

#

It’s a strange feeling,
being a reporter
and not being able
to contact a single person.
Being detached from any lead,
coupled with a sinking feeling,
wondering if any
of the people you know
are physically hurt,
or even alive.

As a journalist,
you really feel hopeless,
like your hands are tied
behind your back.

We give the news.
We’re not supposed
to feel so stranded.

#

An hour after
the Pentagon was attacked,
the Sears Tower was evacuated.
This wasn’t my beat;
I had no contacts, no one
to help me through this disaster,
so I waited there
in case others
needed any assistance.

I sat back for a moment,
left there to wait,
thinking about
Mark and Don in New York,
Dan in D.C.,
even poor Anna —
I’m sure she’s not hurt,
but they’re now cut off to me.
As I said,
all I could do
was wait.

Clear your head of the people,
I could hear myself
say to myself.
You’re a reporter,
just break down the details
of what you see
instead of thinking of this
as another one of your
human interest articles…

The jet fuel,
the drywall,
all that paper
in those offices,
those people,
trapped,
they’re all
hydrogen, carbon, oxygen.
But wait a minute,
in Chicago I think
of the Sulfur smell
when it comes to gunfire.
But jet fuel is Sulfur-laden,
that burning drywall
emits Sulfur gas,
Sulfur’s even the third most common
mineral in the human body.

I mean,
I’m a newspaper reporter.
I know that Sulfur-based compounds
are used in pulp
and paper industries.

#

Yeah, I’m a newspaper reporter.
Just take a breath
and turn your head to the stats.

To clear my head
of the humanity,
the thought of so much Sulfur
being so much a part
of so many details in our lives,
made me think
of the destruction
that Sulfur was so much
a part of today.
I know I stayed here
to give a helping hand,
but with all that Sulfur
on my mind,
suddenly
all I could smell
was the burning,
and I couldn’t stop coughing
while I tried to catch my breath.

Niobium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Niobium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#041, Nb)
started 7/5/13, finished 7/6/12

Niobium’s name is derived
from Greek Mythology,
from the woman Niobe,
daughter of Tantalus…

(and yes, there’s an element
Tantalum, and he’s
directly below her in the
Periodic Table, and it’s hard
to tell them apart sometimes…)

But after Niobe had more children
(seven sons and seven daughters),
and because Niobe felt she had
more prominent stature,
she asked,
“My father was a guest
at the table of the Gods.
My husband built and rules
this city. I have seven sons and
seven daughters worthy of pride.
You revere gods and goddesses
you cannot even see, but
aren’t I worthy
of goddess worship?”

Well, sounding a bit too haughty
to everyone in town,
the god Artemis
and her twin sister Apollo
used arrows for their vengeance —
Artemis killed Niobe’s daughters
Apollo killed Niobe’s sons.
I don’t know is any were spared,
but according to mythology,
when Niobe’s husband saw their dead sons,
he killed himself in grief and despair.
After losing everything.
Niobe fled to Mount Sipylus.
As she wept,
she was turned to stone,
and to this day
there is a natural rock formation there
that resembles a woman’s face,
and rainwater pours
through the porous limestone.
They call this the “Weeping Rock”
in honor of Niobe.

And sure,
Niobium is in chemicals
that are water soluble,
and Niobium is used
in superconducting magnets
(probably like how Niobe
had so many children,
and how everyone was drawn
to her beautiful face,
as she was always
resplendently adorned
in gold and jewels —
through I doubt she had
metal jewelry
made out of Niobium,
even though it turns
to a beautiful blue
when exposed to air).

Niobium is mixed with steel
to make it stronger —
since the Niobium in metal
is also more resistant to heat,
it can be used in anything
from jet engines,
to liquid rocket thrusters
for outer space.
(And as a funny twist, Niobium
is even in the main engine
of the Apollo Lunar Modules.)

You know, Niobium is often used
in commemorative coins,
with gold and silver.
So who knows,
maybe Niobe did have
Niobium in her jewelry,
as everyone admired
her beauty —
until she lost it all.

Lawrencium, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Lawrencium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#103, Lr)

I’ve always tried to figure you out.
I could never pinpoint your true destiny.
All I know
is that your radio
activity to me
left my bones so brittle.
I know your heart is a hand grenade.
You’ve made my skin so paper thin.
You’re corroded me
until my lips
are forever shut.

Indium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#49, In) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Indium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#49, In)
4/27/13

As I touch the screen display,
see images and words moving
along the small LED screen,
I feel you there, just
on the other side.

I say I’ve never needed you,
but you’ve always been just
on the other side,
displaying what I wish to see,
lubricating what cannot
meld together.
You’re as brilliant to me
as a shining silver metal
but you’ve been so fluid
that you melt when I see you.

That may be why
you’ve always been just
on the other side
when it came to us,
and only allowed me
to admire you like this
from afar.