Potassium Chloride, bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, ( based on Potassium, #19, K) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Potassium Chloride

Janet Kuypers

(bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, based on Potassium, #19, K)

Once worked for a company
who stopped selling their drugs
to state correctional facilities

who used them in cocktails
to kill their prisoners. The company
didn’t have the moral issue —

but religious and political
groups did, and companies
couldn’t justify selling drugs

as sedatives to hospitals
when those same drugs
were used to kill people.

Then I learned that in the cocktail,
pentobarbital was the sedative,
pavulon was the paralytic agent,

and Potassium Chloride killed them.
So I instantly remembered
that us humans need Potassium,

but nobody will sell supplements
because too much Potassium
could easily kill a person.

So, too much of an element
that we need for life
can kill us. Fascinating.

But it’s not straight Potassium
that they use in lethal injections,
it’s Potassium Chloride —

so I wondered, but why
is it not just straight Potassium?
That’s when I heard

that if you take Potassium straight
it would burn, so they use this
metal halide of Potassium with chlorine.

How nice of them, because it would
be cruel if prisoners were in pain
before we killed them. That would be

cruel of us.


More than a decade after my state
imposed a moratorium on executions,
then the death penalty was abolished.

And I know the death penalty
costs us taxpayers much more money
than keeping prisoners alive for life.

The death penalty’s not a deterrent,
and the death penalty does take
innocent lives from wrongful convictions.

But all that’s stuck in my head
right now is the Potassium Chloride,
things our body needs, to kills us.

I reflect on the late-night leg cramps
because we don’t get enough Potassium.
Chloride’s needed for metabolism,

and Potassium’s one of the most
important electrolytes in our body.
Still, too much of it can kill us.

It must, somehow, makes sense
that we humans take these elements
and use them as an instrument of death.

I’m afraid I know how us humans think,
of course. It makes perfect sense.

Lanthanum, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #57, La) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

(poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #57, La)

When I went to the after party
of a recent Chicago live play,
an actor from the play
asked me if I was an actor.
I said no, I write,
I run a poetry open mic,
occasionally do features,
and the actor told me,
then you are an actor.

And my story has not
been produced as a play,
and directors aren’t
knocking down my doors
to offer me a starring role.
At my open mic
I applaud other readers,
collect money for features,
and although I perform
in a show sometimes,
a day or two after my show
I am quickly forgotten,
and I still,
seem to slip into the woodwork.


You know, I was thinking about it:
if you look at the Periodic Table,
you know elements are grouped
by weight and therefore by properties,
but there’s this block of elements
sticking out at the bottom of the Table.
It’s like scientists didn’t know
what to do with some of these elements,
so called them Lanthanides,
from the Greek word “lanthano”
(meaning “to escape notice”),
and then moved them out of the way
on the Periodic Table.

And that first element in the series
has the name from the series, Lanthanum,
and maybe it is like an actor
who appears in film after film
always portraying different roles
but not often taking the lead. ..
Lanthanum’s joined with metal elements
to make them stronger, because
even when added to lenses
or the accuracy of radio carbon dating,
everything is sharper, stronger and more accurate —
Lanthanum’s supporting role
makes everything stand proudly
in the lime light.

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


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#108, Hs)

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.

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


Janet Kuypers

(poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #72, Hf)

I heard that the element Hafnium
is named after the literal Latin word hafnium,
which is Latin for Copenhagen,
the capital of Denmark.

And you know, I’ve been to Copenhagen,
and the one touristy thing we had to do
was go to the waterfront
to see the legendary statue
of the Mermaid on the rock,
and photograph it like every foreigner
before we left town.
So we walked to the water,
looked at the statue.
Not really sure
what’s so amazing about it;
it’s not that big,
I don’t even know the story behind it.
But everyone new to Copenhagen
should, for some reason,
check it out.

And the more I thought about it,
the more I realized that the element Hafnium
(named after the city where it was first isolated)
had a lot in common with that mermaid.
Because at first impression
(and when it was first discovered),
the element doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose.
    Good thing, I suppose,
    since it seems so rare
    on this planet…
But as scientists looked at Hafnium more,
they realized it can form super-alloys,
which withstand very high temperatures
(which is great for parts for space vehicles),
Hafnium carbide has the highest melting point
of just two elements (and a Tungsten carbide
with Hafnium has the highest melting point).
But it’s scarcity makes Hafnium expensive –
because I heard that nuclear power plants
can pay a million dollars
just for the neutron absorbing Hafnium rods

So I guess it would make sense
why scientists consider Hafnium
as special as that little mermaid
at Copenhagen’s water’s edge.
Because things may seen benign at first,
but only when you search deeply
do you find their true value and beauty.

G Block, bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicgo poet Janet Kuypers

G Block

Janet Kuypers

(from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #119-184)

While researching cold fusion
to learn about my latest periodic table element,
I see a sentence to a link for
“Approaches to element 120 (Ubn, unbinilium)”,
and I think,
‘oh no,
this can’t be,
the periodic table only goes to element 118,’
so with dread
I follow the link
and realize
that scientists can’t be happy
with the elements they’ve discovered,
of course not,
so even though there’s no place
in the periodic table
for any new elements…

Well, wait a minute,
if they’re talking about element 120,
there has to be talk about element 119,
so I looked it up, and of course, Uue,
ununennium has a wiki web page too,
so I look at their supposed location
in the periodic table,
and they’re off to the left of the table
in two separate additional rows.
119 is in period 8, the s block,
just like its neighbor, 120.

Whatever that means.
(I mean really, haven’t I
done enough research
on these elements already?)

Oh but wait, they’re just to the left
of Hydrogen, which is also in that s block.

So the periodic table contains four blocks,
the s, p, d and f blocks, giving you
details about the atoms therein.
But then I see a link there
for the “extended periodic table”.

Of course. An extended periodic table.

So I look, and because all of these
are super-heavy elements, the theoreticians
(including Seaborg, who theorized about
many of these now postulated elements)
dropped this new set of twelve
121 and up elements
into the “g block.”

Yes, the g block.
Ask any prisoner in the g block,
and they’ll swear
the prosecution made everything up
to put them behind bars.

I wonder, if all of these elements
are still undiscovered,
how much of these g block elements
are these chemists really making up?

But as far as they can hypothesize, this g block
in the periodic table contains eighteen elements
with partially filled g-orbitals in each period…

I’ve read documents postulating
the first g block element’s at 121
that claim the hypothesized element
126 would be within an island of stability,
resistant to fission but not to alpha decay.
They’ve tried to create 119, 120, 121, 124, 126 and 127,
and some scientists once claimed
discovering an isotope of 122 occurring naturally…

But wait a minute, let me think about this:
if the g block is made of twelve elements,
that would mean the edge of the g block
is element one thirty two, and still
I’ve seen that “extended periodic table”
has Superactinides and Eka-superactinides
listed all the way up to one hundred eighty four.

Razzin frazzin.
Mumble grumble.
Can elements even exist with that heavy a weight?
Isotopes of some synthetic elements
last only milliseconds, and as far as I know,
the only way these super-heavy synthetic elements
can be created is by smashing an atom
with a ton of neutrons into an atom
of a synthetic element (you know, like one
with a half life of only milliseconds).
Can scientists even be able to try
to create these only predicted
super-heavy synthetic elements?
Because it’s really unknown
how far the periodic table extends
beyond the discovered element 118.
But some predict that it ends at 128.
Some predict that it ends at 155.
Some first guessed
that the table couldn’t go past 137,
then later calculated the end was 173.

Oh, razzin frazzin,
with all these guesses
I can’t hear myself a-speechin’…
But I’m not quite sure any of these chemists
are sayin’ the right answers, either,
when everyone can only guess
if any more elements can even be created.

Okay, fine, I’m just a poet
trying to learn a thing or two,
to refresh my memory
on the periodic table
and keep my science know-how up to par.
Maybe I’ll just have to wait
until they actually discover
new elements,
and be content
when they discuss elements
in astronomy and science shows,
when I can actually understand
what they’re saying and think,
“wait, I think I knew that…”

Because okay, I’m only a poet,
but I’ll keep my scientific mind open
and welcom every new discovery as it comes
with open arms.

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


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#105, Db)

Over the years, the U.S. and Russia
have fought over all sorts of things —
thermo-nuclear bombs,
inter-continental ballistic missiles
to carry those bombs,
even getting men into space,
or winning the most Olympic medals,
or even… Making new chemical elements.

You may think of the Cold War
when I mention the U.S. and Russia,
oh, I’m sorry, the Soviet Union,
but you could probably also think
of the Transfermium Wars
where both countries spilled a lot of


in an effort to come out the winner.

Because it was both Dubna in the USSR
and Berkeley California in the U.S.A.
that claimed the discovery of this element,
but after the Cold War, the IUPAC
(oh, don’t make me spell that out for you,
the International Union of Pure
and Applied Chemistry, the group
that decides the names for elements)
said that credit for this discovery
should be shared between the two.

But if the two countries no longer
battled over who discovered it first,
they could at least then argue
over the naming rights for the element…
The Soviets wanted to call it nielsbohrium
for the Danish nuclear physicist Niels Bohr.
The Americans wanted to call it hahnium
for the late German chemist Otto Hahn.
SO, American and Western Europeans
started calling the element hahnium,
while the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc
countries went on calling it nielsbohrium.

So the IUPAC gave the name unnilpentium
(one zero five, Unp) as a temporary name.
Though the two countries still disagreed
over the naming of this new element,
The IUPAC then decided on Dubnium,
to honor the Russian discovery location.
I think the only reason it got to be named
after Dubna is because America had
so many elements already named for them
(like berkelium, californium, americium),
and if the elements AROUND one oh five
(rutherfordium and seaborgium) are U.S.,
Dubnium can offset the American discoveries.

So yeah, even after all these decades
of competition and mistrust,
a third party had to come in — repeatedly —
to try to settle our squabbles,
kind of like the UN…

But now that we’re got the name
figured out for element one oh five,
maybe now we can learn about Dubnium,
So I did a little research, and lo and behold,
scientists haven’t been able to figure
this element out either.
Melting point? Unknown.
Boiling point? Unknown.
Density? Unknown…
I guess that’s what we get
for battling with the Soviet Union
(well, okay, later Russia)
to try to create a highly radioactive metal
which doesn’t even occur in nature.
Only a few atoms have ever been made,
so I guess our “creation”
is for research interest only.

…But wait a minute, we just created
a radioactive element — should we worry
that if this spreads we’ll turn
into a radioactive planet?
Will our progenitors
be a radioactive species?

Well, that might sound like a thrill
for comic book guy, but Dubnium
is so unstable that it would decompose
so quickly that it’ll never affect humans.
And because of Dubnium’s half life
of half a minute (that’s short, by the way),
there’s no point in even worrying
about it’s affects on the environment either.
So as I said, sorry comic book guy,
but this won’t turn us
into radioactive people
or kill us by radiation…
Hmmm, maybe the United States
and Russia once worked
on trying to blow each other up
with nuclear bombs and missiles,
but when it came to the Dubnium battles
in the Transfermium Wars, maybe for once
we were both working at the same time
on something for science
that will only help us learn.

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


Janet Kuypers

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

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


Janet Kuypers

(from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #107, Bh)

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.