Curium, “Periodic Table od Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Curium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#96, Cm)
10/23/13

Searching through storage
for my wedding clothes,
I ignored my white wedding dress
and reached for the wedding veil.
It might not be true
to my Halloween costume,
but I had to wear something
to show that my black long-sleeved dress
was actually a wedding dress.
I’ll carry a small bunch
of white flowers
to make what otherwise
seems like a “goth wedding”
look complete, but still,
I’ll have to explain
that my Halloween costume
is my interpretation
of Marie Curie
on her wedding day.

I mean, I had to wear this
for my Halloween costume,
I mean, I’m writing poetry
for every element
in the Periodic Table,
and I know that Marie Curie
discovered a few of these
elements herself, and one
was even named after her.

And maybe it’s wasn’t goth,
but a diligent work ethic
that caused Marie Curie
on her own wedding day
to wear a black dress —
so she could wear the same
black dress later for her work.

And yeah, when she worked
she was getting messy with her
radioactive elements
(ergo the black dress, I suppose),
but when she studied
the radioactivity
of some elements
seeming higher at times,
she deduced that there
must be something else
causing the radiation.

And there was;
she even coined the
term “radioactivity,’
while she discovered
the two radioactive elements
radium and polonium.

But looking back on her life,
maybe wearing the black
dress was appropriate,
because she soared
in all the schooling
she could legally take
(at the time, she couldn’t
enroll in a higher education
because she was female) —
so she eventually had
to go underground learning
for higher education
in makeshift classrooms
that lasted only a few days
before a government raid
would cause the “schooling”
to have to move again.
She then left Poland for Paris,
was able to go to school,
but was still penniless and hungry.

But after her second degree,
she met her Pierre,
who worked with her
even after their marriage
(where they gave each other
bicycles as wedding gifts).

I know, I know, I’m going
on and on about Marie Curie
for my Halloween costume,
and there’s even an element
named after her, but she
didn’t discover that element,
so does Curium have any
relationship to Marie Curie?
Well, other than the fact
that Curium’s radioactive
(Curium is actually one of the
most radioactive elements),
Curium is now used to help
scientists learn and discover,
much the way Marie Curie did.

Curium helps people, to help
power artificial pacemakers.
But it’s even used in alpha-particle
X-ray spectrometers that are
installed on lunar and Mars rovers
like the Sojourner or the
Spirit and Opportunity rovers.
It’s even used on a spacecraft
to probe the surface of a comet.

Hmmm… Because it’s radioactive,
Curium is dangerous to us humans,
even though it really does have
a certain glow to it…
But it is nice to know that,
like Marie Curie,
we can use this element
to research and learn.
Besides, both being a goth girl
and loving to dive into my work
is really making me take a shine
to this black wedding dress idea…

Beauty in the Eyes of Einsteinium, bonus “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Beauty in the Eyes of Einsteinium

Janet Kuypers

Bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #099, Es
based on the poems “Beauty in the Eyes of Einstein” and “Einsteinium”
9/30/13

Einstein dismissed some of his theories —
even some we may know all too well.

Einstein didn’t like some of his theories
because he thought they weren’t beautiful.

And I wonder:
what is beauty?

Is it the geomagnetic aberrations
of the Aurora Borealis
dancing along the horizon
at the arctic circle?

Is it the eternally changing
wisps of volcanic trails
in the Saturn moon Titan’s atmosphere?

Or is it converting matter into pure energy
with just the right formula?

We ask, what is beauty?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
So it makes me wonder…

Einstein understood
that everything was relative…

Because once he fathomed
the relationship
between matter and energy,
once he understood
the interconnectivity
between matter and energy —

he understood that his knowledge
in the hands of evil men
could mean that his Fatherland,
the land he escaped from,
he understood that Hitler and the Third Reich
could be working on an atomic bomb,
converting so little matter
into so much devastating energy.

Einstein understood the gravity
of his writing a letter
to appeal to Roosevelt
to create this bomb,
to protect us from Germany.

Now:
imagine the finality
of naming an element discovered
after the first explosion
of the hydrogen bomb
after
Albert Einstein.

Because really,
in a way,
it’s
ironically
beautiful.

So we ask, what is beauty?

Because chemists will make it clear
that Einsteinium
has no known uses…
But think about it:
is there any logical reason
to grow a certain flower
and purchase it at inflated prices
to give to someone you’re smitten with
on an early date?
Is there any logical reason
to accept the De Beers company
global stranglehold
over stopping the release
of an otherwise common crystal
so that a loved one can cherish
a clear stone on their left finger
to show the world
that they’re otherwise
“taken”?
Is there any logical reason
to claim a song
for a slow dance
on your wedding day?

Logically?
Of course not.
But we do it anyway,
we keep dried rose petals
from that infatuating relationship,
women constantly ooh and aah
over engagement ring sizes,
and married people
intrinsically feel
they have to dance
when they hear
their wedding song.

How illogical.
But how beautiful.

So we ask what is beauty.
And all scientists seem to
use Einsteinium for now
is basic scientific research,
but that seems oddly fitting,
since that is what
Einstein did best.
To think.
To research.

And that
is beautiful.

Alumium? Aluminium? Aluminum?, bonus poem from from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Alumium? Aluminium? Aluminum?

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#13, Al)
7/20/13

So back in the day,
this is how researchers
conducted science
when working with things
they didn’t know…

So when a Denmark man
in eighteen twenty-five
discovered element thirteen,
(and wanting to know
everything about it),
he tasted the element.
Thinking it was bitter
(and made his mouth
tighten like he ate alum),
he posed the name
for element thirteen
to be Alumium.
But I think the scientists
that formed the
element-naming community
didn’t like that name,
so the called the element
“Alumunium”.

But the element’s name
is Aluminum,
Aluminium is a British thing,
so why is it known
in the states
as Aluminum?

Well, I heard a man
explain that he heard
(now I don’t know
if this is true,
but hear me out)
he heard that in the states
when a company
(wait, it might have been
the Aluminum Company
of America, ALCOA,
but I’m not sure)
when it was starting,
it filed it’s name
to the federal government,
and when meaning to write
“the Aluminium
Company of America,”
they forgot
the letter “i”,
so their name became
the Aluminum Company
of America.

And, well, it stuck,
not only to the company,
but also to the science
community in America,
and because someone
forgot to write
the letter “i”
for registering
a company name,
all American-speaking countries
now say “Aluminum”
instead of “aluminium”.

So from tasting like alum
to mis-spelling a word,
Alumium, I mean,
Aluminuium, or
rather, Aluminum,
now has quite a list
of aliases…