Zinc poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

After my injectable medication prescription started,
I learned that the drug I had to take
would suppress my immune system,
which meant I’d have to start getting flu shots,
dress for the weather because it’s easier
to get a cold or a fever,
and get more religious
about taking more vitamins and minerals.

Time to o.d. on vitamin C.
Take some D when the sun’s not out.
Get your daily B, E, iron, calcium, and Zinc.

It’s funny, I see Zinc throat lozenges
for when people get sick
to try to speed their recovery,
but I figured I should hedge my bets
and take the supplements every day.

When I told my sister I started taking Zinc
after the injectable medication regimen began,
she was stunned. “You can take that much?
I can’t take that much Zinc like that daily.”

But the thing is, Zinc is in nearly one hundred
enzymes needed for plant and animal life.
So whether or not you think the idea
of eating this metal is good for you or not,
it’s apparently needed, and if it’ll help me stay healthy
I’ll make a point to somehow consume my share.

Besides, when cold season comes annually
I see more and more advertisements
for zinc lozenges and over the counter medications,
because zinc will help stop any infections
so that people can get on with their lives again.

I mean, two billion people in developed countries
actually even have Zinc deficiency,
which could cause growth retardation,
delayed sexual maturity, regular diarrhea,
or the one I have to fear: infection susceptibility.

So I just have to keep in mind
the ways that Zinc is needed in the body…
Being the forth most common element
(behind iron, aluminum and copper),
it’s easy to want to consume Zinc
because you think it’s entirely for your own good.
But even though Zinc as an element
is hard and brittle,
too much Zinc can actaully
sap the copper from our bodies
(because we apparently need
a lot of metal elements in our body
to keep us strong and make us work right).
And the way too much Zinc
can sap the copper from our bodies,
soil with too much Zinc from local mining
could mean that plants (which need metals
to live, and we need those plants for food)
won’t be able to absorb the other metals they need.

And since it was discovered in the seventeen hundreds,
alchemists used to burn zinc from the air,
to get what they called “white snow,”
or “philosopher’s wool,” because it collected in puffs.

Hmmm. Philosopher’s Wool.
Not half bad sounding.
Maybe I can wax philosophic
about how Zinc — this philosopher’s wool —
can protect my immune system,
and help me grapple with the
philosophical questions of life.

But really, after the Germans discovered
Zinc in the seventeen hundreds, they started
using it as a plating of steel,
and we have later found
that Zinc is a great anti-corrosive agent,
because it’s more reactive
than iron or steel.
Zinc was used throughout history also in brass,
but thinking of those nearly one hundred enzymes
used for plant and animal life that use Zinc,
it made me think of all of the compounds
and ions Zinc is now used for:
Zinc gluconate is that dietary supplement,
Zinc chloride is added to lumber as a fire retardant,
Zinc sulfide is even used in luminescent paints,
and hey, let’s make this a little more personal
for us humans here,
Zinc pyrithione is used for anti-dandruff shampoo,
and Zinc chlorinate is used in deodorants…

So yeah, from what I’ve learned
Zinc is needed in so many ways,
on so many levels, for both us animals
and the plants we need to live our lives.
It’s strange to think that one element like Zinc
can be used for many different purposes
(like stopping metals from corroding
or stopping wood from catching fire)…
But we also have to keep in mind
that Zinc, in nearly one hundred enzymes
needed for our plant and animal life,
proves that we need Zinc within us
as well as around what we need.
I don’t know, I’m just glad
that my stomach doesn’t react badly
to taking Zinc supplements daily,
because since I want to make sure
I’m as healthy as I can be
for as long as I can be,
taking more of a metallic element like Zinc
than the average person does
really is a small price to pay.

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.

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


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#79, Bk)
(started 8/15/14, finished 8/22/14)

The streets of town were paved with stars,
it was such a romantic affair
and when we kissed and said good night
a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

A nightingale sang in Berkeley square.
Berkeley. B, E, R, K, E, L, E, Y.
You see, on the other side of the pond
the Brits have a different way of saying things,
including the name of the Anglo Irish
philosopher George Berkley.
That’s B, E, R, K, L, E, Y, like
you’re barking up the wrong tree,
but when a city and University in California
was named after this philosopher,
well, the pronunciation changed
after it crossed the ocean.
And because of scientific work done
at the University of Berkley,
they decided to name element seventy nine
after the University (it’s actually
only one of two elements in the Periodic Table
named after a university).
So, I don’t really know
how you’re supposed to pronounce it,
should I say berk-lee-um like the States,
or the British ber-keel-ee-yum,
because I’ve been trying to learn
a thing or two about Berkelium.
And the thing is, it’s never found
in it’s pure form,
because this transuranic radioactive
and artificially produced element
is a soft, silvery-white, actinide metal
that sometimes has long half lives
through it’s isotopes
(that range from microseconds to several days,
to three hundred thirty days, to nine years
to one thousand three hundred eighty years).
So maybe I’m only meant
to learn about parts of it
by these fleeting dances
scientists have with Berkelium…