Yttrium, from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#39, Y) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#39, Y)

Recently NASA sent a rocket
to collide with a comet
to gather comet dust,
so they could learn about comets,
which contain the primordial parts
of what started this solar system.

A compact disc bearing my name
was mounted on the impactor
spacecraft shot into space
on this Deep Impact mission.

Although this was the first NASA
mission with my name on it,
it was also the first NASA mission
to learn about what’s deep inside
a comet.

The rocket combustion chamber
that shot this impactor spacecraft
on it’s collision course
with Comet Tempel 1,
had a silver-colored lining
of an alloy of nickel, chromium,
aluminum and Yttrium.
Yttrium makes sense, because
Yttrium has been used
in places from MRI scanners
(to help us heal)
to CRT tubes on TV sets
(to help us see).
Yttrium makes element
compounds stronger
(good for stellar travel)…
Besides, the fact that Yttrium
is colorless, odorless,
and not naturally magnetic
gives it an added plus
while being a part of the launching
of the rocket I tacked my name onto
when looking for a comet.
It’ll help us see more than
what’s inside our bodies, or
what a cathode ray tube could —
it may help us see
where we came from
in this solar system too.

Krypton poem by Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

So, riddle me this, Batman…
(Wait a minute. That’s the wrong
superhero reference.
Let me start over again…)

Hi there. I’ve been trying
to wrap my head around this one,
maybe you can help me out.
Now, I don’t know a ton
about superhero mythology,
but Superman — he’s from
the planet Krypton, right?
And from what I’d infer,
Krypton would have a lot
of Kryptonite — Kryptonite
comes from Krypton, right?
So if Superman is from Krypton,
why would Kryptonite
be his weakness?
I mean, that’s like saying
the planet Earth has Oxygen,
but humans have an adverse
reaction to it. I don’t get it.

Okay, okay, i’m sure Kryptonite
is the ore form of a radioactive
element from Superman’s home,
but really, if they’ll name
this bad-for-residents thing
a version of the panet’s name,
it really makes you wonder

And when it comes to this planet,
Krypton is colorless, odorless, tasteless…
and our own air, the stuff we breathe,
even contains fractional amounts of Krypton.
And if on Superman’s home planet
it was the radioactive ore of an element,
I guess it makes sense that here on earth
Krypton is used for fluorescent lamps,
or even in high-powered gas lasers.

But the one thing I thought was cool
was that Krypton is also used
in small photograph flashes,
and in high-speed photography
(you know, for a brilliant white light
source – good for the photo minor
who even had the license place
“J PHOTO 1” for her first car)…

And if I so got into the brilliant
white light Krypton creates in flashes,
I also then thought it was excellent-cool
that the different colors in neon signs
are often all Krypton, too…

So whether or not Krypton
is where Superman came from,
all I can say is that
Krypton has a certain brilliance
right here on earth too.