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


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#094, Pu)

Now, I know they named the element Plutonium
after the at-the-time newly-discovered planet,
but I can’t help but wonder
if any of those scientists
who deal with Plutonium now
feel slighted that the planet
was demoted to a planetoid.

But if these scientists care at all about astronomy,
they have to feel consoled
that, at least, their element Plutonium
is used with the element Neptunium
when extracted from spent nuclear fuel rods
And Neptunium is a by-product in production.

Added bonus, if this element’s namesake
was named after an icy ball at the edge of our
solar system, at least now the element can hang
and work with the element Neptunium,
which, like that element’s namesake Neptune,
is a bit of a gas giant itself.
Fermi discovered Plutonium,
and the silvery-white element
(looking not unlike an ice ball)
was even originally used
in weapon design in the Manhattan Project…

Because you know, even if the planet Pluto
is really just an icy ball from the Kuiper Belt,
at least in the Periodic Table
Pluto“nium” can at least hang out once again
with it’s once astronomical brother Neptun“ium”
and feel important again.

Neptunium poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

When they discovered the planet Neptune,
seeing that distant blue orb
and naming it after the Roman god of the sea,

scientists seemed to be in a mad rush
when discovering elements
to name the new element after the planet.

Someone originally named Germanium
after the (at the time) newly discovered planet,
and at three times the element ninety three

was discovered and given the names
bohemium, ausonium and sequanium.
But after all this research and all this discovery,

it seems fitting that the element
that got the name Neptunium as it’s name
is used on earth mostly in nuclear reactions.

Discovered by bombing uranium
with slow moving neutrons in nuclear fission,
Neptunium is now used in weapons applications.

So it might have something in common
with the name of the gas giants, as an energetic,
explosive ball or energy, despite the fact

that like the planet, with it’s deceptively
seductive blue hue, can deep down
still be so tumultuously violent.

But in ancient history and mythology,
Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto,
each of them presiding over the realms

of Heaven, Earth and the Netherworld. I suppose
Neptune ruled with a gentle hand, although
Neptunium always had that iron fist.