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


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#117, eka-astatine, dvi-iodine, Uus)
with poetry from “Tired of Trying,” from the “Depression – the singles” collection

I knew you were out there for years.
But to get you, after toiling in my Dubna lab
we had to ask the Americans
over in Tennessee
if they could send us
some of their wares,

but years passed before I could get
22 milligrams of Berkelium
so I could work in Moscow Oblast
to get you in my sights.

All that time, all I could do
was research, hope.
I’d work, I’d go
and I’d stand on my own,
and I’d leave on my own,*
wondering how long it would take
before I’d see what you might be like.

You see, I used to work at a pharmacy
at Nevsky Prospekt in Leningrad,
that’s when I fell in love
with learning about chemicals,
and that is when I wanted
to discover something truly new.

That’s when you came into the picture.

Because after years of work,
I still waited for those damn Americans
to come through for us.
I mean, we’re scientists,
we’re supposed to be on the same side,
this is all about discovery.
And the thing is,
the higher we get in our research,
the more stable we got
on our little island of knowledge.
But this waiting was exasperating —
I got to the point
that I got tired of trying to tell myself
that I had something to discover,
something to share,
that someone wanted to hear.**

Eventually, they had to ship
what I needed to get you
in five packages wrapped in lead;
it flew back and forth
across the Atlantic five times
and was rejected twice by customs.
But once I got what I needed —
oh, you were just about
the heaviest thing I could imagine.
Then again, you’ve had me
spinning around over the years for you,
so it wouldn’t surprise me
if you would do the same for me.

So I’d work while listening to the radio,
and active actions from you
would come to me in short bursts.
But I’ll take whatever I can get
in my little corner of the world.
This is research. And this is what I do

to learn what I can from you.


* “How Soon is Now,” the Smiths, 1984
** “Tired of Life”, 2012

Livermorium, Periodic Table of Poetry poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


by Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#116, Lv; Ununhexium, eka-polonium)

For so many years,
you’ve gone by another name,
and then you seem surprised
when people don’t know who you are.

You’ve wanted to be known,
and I’ve known you for years,
but I’ve noticed that as time passes,
as you grow,
you move farther
and farther

You’ve tried for so long,
and over the years,
in our efforts to synthesize
we’ve had some successful reactions,
some failures to react —
and I know that some attempts
have not even been made,
but at times these attempts at fusion with you
seem far too hot for me to handle.

And really,
I assume
they’re too hot
for you too.

Maybe your half life is just so short
that I never know what to do with you.
And I’ll never know what you’ll do next.

In our past four creations,
this quantum tunneling
has been something
I don’t think I can take any longer.
And I’m sorry, but
you’re insufficiently stable,
and you’ve never let me confirm
the true weightiness of your soul.

maybe you should go your way,
and I should go mine.
I know your possible chemistry,
and I know you want to share your soul
with the entire world.

I know this.

And I’m sorry,
but I’ve grown tired,
and know
you’ll continue to grow without me.

So yes,
you should go your way,
and I should go mine.
Maybe one day,
you will truly find
what you —
and the world —
so desperately needs.

Iodine, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#053, I)

I saw a science fantasy show once
where a man made entirely out of tumors
could only regenerate himself to survive
by submerging in a bathtub of Iodine.

Now I’m not a tumor, I’m only human,
but I have to remember that you’re good for me,
you and you violet vapors,
we’ve just got to find out ways
to keep you with us as long as we can…

you’re rare throughout this Universe,
but lucky us, here on planet earth,
we’re the one with the water,
and you seem to be all over our oceans.

Lucky us, we need your nutrition,
and we need you to help us heal…

But as I said, you’re rare in the Universe,
which means you’re rare on this land.
And if we can’t get enough of you,
it might be an intellectual disability.

But you help me see right down to my bones,
and I don’t want to lose my faculties —
or what makes me me —
if I don’t have you.

You’ve disinfected my cuts and sores,
we’ve used you in medicines,
and… I’m sorry.
You may be rare in this Universe,
but I know how good you are to me,
and I don’t want to let you go.


Osmium poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Hearing the word “Osmium” recently
(and not knowing what the word means),
the only thing that popped into my head
was the Osmonds,
Then I had this crazy 1970s flashback
to watching the Donny and Marie Osmond show,
her singing “I’m a Little Bit Country”
and him singing “I’m a Little Bit Rock ‘n Roll”
(and listening to that ‘70s song now,
you’d swear that Donny Osmond
has no Motown in his soul)…
But when I was little, I even had
the Donny and Marie Barbie-styled
dolls and play set, which even had
a stage where they could sing —
they had microphones — and this
is the best part — the Donny and Marie
dolls had holes through their hands
(if only these holes leaked blood, so the
Donny and Marie stigmata was complete)
so microphones could lock into their hands.

I guess Donny and Marie dolls
had the stigmata so they could
have that strong bond
with the microphone,
like their strong Osmond
family bond.

Because I’m sure
a family bond
is harder than anything.

And no, I didn’t know what “Osmium” was,
but Osmium is a blue-gray
to blue-black transition metal,
and as far as elements go,
it’s actually the densest
hard transition metal
in the platinum family,
that actually remains lustrous,
even at higher temperatures.

And you know,
I’ve got a medical bracelet
I have to wear all the time…
If my medical bracelet
was made out of Osmium
it would probably last forever
and look really cool too…

But then again,
because it’s so dense and so hard,
it’s probably too brittle
to shape into a bracelet.
But I’m sure they use Osmium
in applications where durability
and hardness are needed,
like in the constant varying pressure
in fountain pen nibs,
or very repetitive and exacting
electrical contacts.

And the other thing that’s a bummer
about the densest element
in the Periodic Table
is that Osmium is actually
the least abundant element
in the earth’s crust…
So I guess it makes sense
that since it’s only obtained
during copper and nickel mining,
it would probably be used
for such small objects
like fountain pen nibs
and electrical circuitry
when these minute things
need to last.

And yeah, the thing is,
Osmium can also be used
for fingerprint detection,
and it can even stain fatty tissue
for optical and electron microscopy.
So it’s excellent-cool
that Osmium can also be used
on a microscopic level like that
to help us out so much too…

So, maybe if something
as dense and hard as Osmium
is actually quite rare here,
it’s a good thing
we’ve learned to utilize
such small amounts
of this dense element
for so many things
to help us out so much in life.