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

Rhodium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#45, Rh)
10/15/13

When you say the word “menthol,”
images probably crop up in your head
of women holding a cigarette stick
like she’s using her smoke
as an orchestra wand,
tracing the line of smoke
like she’s conducting a symphony
with her mint-tasting cancer stick.

But menthol’s also used in lip balms
(I really like that stuff, too,
I like the minty flavor on my lips) —
it’s even used in cough medications.
It can be used in those Icy Hot patches,
menthol’s in decongestants
like Vicks VapoRub, it’s in
aftershaves to relieve razor burn.
Yeah, and speaking of the taste
in cigarettes or lip balm, menthol
is in mouthwashes, toothpastes,
even chewing gum.

So really, now that you know how
widely it’s used now, you can see
how menthol’s demand is now so huge
compared to the natural supply.
So in Japan, one man even won in 2001
the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for
a process to meet the demand
for more menthol worldwide.
This Japanese team used Rhodium
based catalysts for menthol synthesis.

And yeah, Rhodium is used in catalysts
for anything from automobile
catalytic converters, or making
certain silicone rubbers. And sure,
Rhodium is used for jewelry,
coating sterling silver to stop tarnishing
or electroplating white gold and platinum,
making it white and reflective.

I mean, the Guinness Book of World Records
gave Paul McCartney a Rhodium-plated disc
in 1979 for being history’s all-time best-selling
songwriter and recording artist.

Not gold. Not titanium. But Rhodium.

(And because Rhodium’s so expensive,
that World Records award disc given to
Paul McCartney isn’t even solid Rhodium.)

So I guess it’s kind of interesting that
this expensive decorative jewelry addition
is also used to give our chewing gum
that excellent minty flavor. So yeah,
when you’re worrying about how money
can seem tight sometimes,
don’t worry about the jewelry.
Just pop a stick of mint chewing gum
in your mouth, thanks to Rhodium,
and realize that we all probably
don’t have it that bad after all.

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

Polonium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#084, Po)
including the poem “Eyes are Blurred to the Battlefield”
8/11/13

On the Indonesian island Jawa
large turtle skeletons
litter the plains,

because after the turtles
came in from the ocean
to lay their eggs,

swarms of wild dogs there
got together and
pounced.

Those wild dogs flipped the turtles over,
and stripped them completely
from their shells

before they ate them alive.

Because we have to remember
that life is a constant
avoidance of death:

since later on, many of those wild dogs
who killed the turtles
were prey to the tiger,

who later pounced upon them.
This is the cycle of life,
because every birth

is a prelude to death.
Remember this.
Don’t forget.

#

Keep in mind that elemental Polonium
changes in a nuclear reactor
to form Polonium-210…

Because the former Russian agent
Alexander Litvinenko
was the first man

to be poisoned to death from lethal
Polonium-210-induced
acute radiation.

So yes, because life is a prelude to,
and a constant avoidance
of death,

this Polonium-210 poisoning marked
the beginning of an era
of nuclear terrorism.

#

I know, I know, this is only
a part of Polonium,
and they found

that Polonium’s electrical conductivity
changes with it’s temperature,
making it perfect

for eliminating static electricity.
And because of it’s
short half-life,

it’s decay generates heat, so it’s a
convenient and light source
to generate

thermo-electric power in space
satellites and lunar stations —
because it’s great

that for space no moving parts
are required for power
from Polonium.

Yes, I know it’s radioactive,
Marie Curie discovered
Polonium

(named for her homeland Poland),
she even coined the phrase
“radioactivity” while

working. She even worked so diligently
that on her own wedding day
she wore a black dress —

because she could then wear it
for the work she later
had to do.

#

Marie Curie wore a black dress
to her own wedding;
maybe she knew

that life is a constant avoidance
of death. Life is just
a prelude to death,

because though Polonium otherwise
seems like a relatively
harmless element,

Polonium-210 can still be used
as just the right element
for nuclear terrorism.

#

With Polonium, there’s much to learn.
Because when alloyed,
it can be

a portable neutron source, Polonium
is even used in making
photographic plates.

But then again, Polonium’s
the only component
of cigarette smoke

found in lab rats to produce cancer.
Polonium was produced
in World War II’s

Manhattan Project — it was even
part of the design of the
Fat Man bomb

on Nagasaki. Yeah, Polonium
has many good qualities
to us humans,

but kep in mind that life is still
a constant avoidance
of death.

So despite what good we look for
in Polonium, this element
can also be

the instrument of death.
Remember this.
Don’t forget.

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

Neodymium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#060, Nd)

I am drawn to you, / you pull on me so,
when I think of how / you’re so magnetic.

With your electric charge, / my motor’s going,
you get me charged up / thinking it’s a game…

You use my favorite gems, / Garnet and crystals,
and you make every point / seem laser clear.

You’re focus must be why / I’m so drawn to you
I must come to you / until you’re near.

And now you know how / I love my glassware,
so I was sent to / a glass blowing lathe,

and the glass blowers / were making glassware
with you on their eyes / so they could see.

They loaned me their specs, / I put them on —
and through the green-grey specs / the flame was gone.

I did a double-take — / there was no glare —
leaving me to see / just molten glass.

‘Cause on those glasses, / you weren’t alone —
you worked in pairs there / so we could see.

‘Cause to the Greeks / you are a new twin,
that’s where together’s / how you fit in…

 

And all of this time / I was drawn to you
but now you’ve proven / you can help me see.