Barium poem by Janet Kuypers


by Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

As Christmas approaches,
I get my glass ornaments out
for decorating the tree,
and it reminds me
of how the element Barium
is used in glass making
to improve the luster,
which is perfect for these ornaments.

Because I always thought
that Barium was used
to coat fluorescent lamps,
or add to fireworks
to make them a vibrant green
(not unlike a Christmas tree),
or even as a contrast agent
when taking X-rays,
and yeah, Barium compounds
can even halt the leaking
of X-rays from CRT TV sets…

A mineral containing Barium
is also a rare blue
fluorescent gemstone,
that‚s even the official
state gem of California.

So I guess it does make sense
that Barium could also improve
the luster of glassware…

But when I looked for
more information on Barium,
that‚s when I read
in the New York Daily News
and the Daily Mail
that a Tennessee woman
was actually being poisoned
by her doctor husband
with Barium. This woman,
living on Lookout Mountain,
was suffering from a mysterious
illness for months, until
she found out
that her physician husband
had been poisoning her
for five months by putting
Barium in her morning coffee.

Wow, so I suppose having a little
Barium in your system
once or twice in your life
for an X-ray won‚t due you in…
The element Barium can
add luster to glassware, or
give an intense green in fireworks,
coat fluorescent lamps, or stop
X-rays from coming to you
through your TV screen —
the element Barium can
even help doctors see better
in X-rays to help someone‚s life.
But don‚t put it in your morning
coffee every day,
because if you give someone
too much of what otherwise
seems like a good thing,
it can also be what kills you…

Chromium poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Closing the door
to my stainless steel refrigerator,
I thought about the popularity
of stainless steel;
everyone wants to get
stainless steel fronts
for all of their kitchen appliances.
Costs more at the store,
but that’s the price for looking good.

So I thought, stainless steel,
okay, what is that, iron?
But my wrought iron bed frame
and sets of candle holders
are pretty much black,
some of it’s rusting,
so what do they do
to make this iron a shiny,
different kind of metal?

I looked online
and the answer
was 24.
Not 42, not the meaning of life,
but the atomic number.

You know, when I turned 24 at work,
our rep from our press called me,
and I told him it was my birthday.
So he asked me how old I was,
and I said 42.
He sounded surprised, so I told him,
“Oh, you didn’t ask me
how old I felt.
I’m 24.”

But really, chromium
is atomic element number 24,
and to make stainless steel
they add over ten percent
of chromium to the iron to form
a steel alloy that doesn’t corrode.
(Good thing
my refrigerator
won’t rust…)

So maybe it’s the
magnetic properties of chromium
that make this metal so appealing
to people now…
But this protective element
has protected weaponry
from Chinese dynasties
thousands of years ago,
so the Chinese knew,
even then,
that coating things with
this magnetic metallic element
would stop corrosion.

I mean, we’ve all heard
of things that are
chrome plated, right?
Chromium not only makes things
last longer, but
chromium is also known for
its luster when polished —
which really makes
for a great sell.
Just go to any hangout
for motorcyclists,
probably on any summer
Sunday morning,
and see the parked line-up
of one motorcycle after another,
each outdoing each other
with decorative chrome plating…

But then I thought…
Chromium’s even used
as chrome yellow dye
for school buses…
Chromium salts are used
for wood preservatives
and tanning leather…
The refractory applications
of chromium even work
for blast furnaces, cement kilns,
molds for the firing of bricks
and also for the casting of metals.

I guess chromium can really
extend the life
of what we see around us…
So I guess it’s fitting
that when my birthday
coincided with this element,
I jokingly said
that the number in question
was actually the answer
to life, the universe,
and everything…