Zinc poem by Janet Kuypers

Zinc

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.

Nitrium, bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series – based on the original name (before Natrium) for Sodium, #11, Na – by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Nitrium

Janet Kuypers

(bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series)
based on the original name (before Natrium) for Sodium, #11, Na
started 1/16/15, edited and completed 1/29/15

I’ve been studying elements
in the Periodic Table, and when
I heard the word “Nitrium,”
it made me laugh
(thinking of Nitrous Oxide).
So I looked it up online…
The only thing I could find
was from the Memory Alpha
in Star Trek Wikia,
and they could only guess
that Nitrium was either an alloy
or a metallic element.

But the history buff in me
remembered that Nitrium
is a variant of natrium,
and it was the original name
for the element Sodium.

(I mean, doctors even call
low sodium levels in the blood
hyponatremia…)

So as I read up
at my Star Trek Wikia —
I suddenly realized how
essential this Nitrium really was:

If you remember basic chemistry,
sodium reacts violently with water,
disintegrating, or even exploding
(no no no, you’re thinking of salt,
that’s not straight sodium,
that’s why it mixes with water…)

And as I read, Nitrium
(which was the first name
for Sodium)
was prevalent in asteroids
and it was used
in so many places
in the construction
of Federation starships.

Now, when it comes to our own bodies,
Sodium (or should I say Nitrium)
controls blood pressure
and blood volume —
it’s essential in our bodies
to keep them running smoothly.

So it makes total sense
that Galaxy-glass vessels
used Nitrium in their ships,
from computers, to engines
to their life support systems.

Nitrium was so crucial
to the Cost of Living —
you see, I expanded my research
from Star Trek Wikia
to straight-up Wikipedia
and discovered that parasites
were eating the Nitrium
all over the Enterprise,
jeopardizing the ship’s integrity.

Because as I’ve learned,
with every Periodic Table
element out there
there’s a good side
and a bad side:
if Nitrium is used
all over the Enterprise,
something could easily come along
to destroy it as well.

I mean, think of it
in our own bodies:
when Sodium (or Nitrium)
reacts with water
and forms Sodium Hydroxide,
but this reaction
gets the Hydrogen so hot
that it burns.

And if Nitrium
was the original name for Sodium,
that probably explains why
you never see
a Galaxy-class starship
entering a planet’s atmosphere,
where there’s water in the air.
Because really,
the people at Star Trek learned
that even just a little water in the air
would be enough
to make their starship
disintegrate
around them.

…Really, whenever the Enterprise
actually goed to a planet,
they never land on the planet
with their big Galaxy-class starship,
they send a shuttle,
or they beam someone down,
because in this case,
the water in the air
that’s embedded in the atmosphere,
that water could react
with the Sodium —
oops, I mean,
that water could react
with the Nitrium —
and it might actually
do the Enterprise in.

As I said,
with all the elements
I’ve studied,
there’s a good side
and a bad side to them.
We might desperately need them,
but they also may somehow
do us in
if they’re mixed
in the just the right way.

Because if you sit in a lab
in the twenty-first century,
you can watch this element
react with water in a beaker —
and if you’re going
where no one has gone before
in the twenty-fourth century,
you might have to be sure
your Nitrium-rich ship
finds no water in space,
and finds no parasites
that may eat you
out of your only way home.

Thorium, from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#90. Th) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Thorium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#90. Th)
7/1/14

Think of how many times
you’ve heard scientists say
(or maybe you’ve heard it
from people on daredevil tv)
“do not try this at home” —
knowing that someone,
somewhere
won’t heed this advice
and end up
with an unintended explosion
instead of a fantastic discovery
from their radical experiment…

Well, good thing one Swedish chemist
didn’t decide to “not try this at home”,
doing groundbreaking experiments
in his kitchen flat.
Though Jöns Jacob Berzelius < !—(yens yoke-ub bear-zeal-ee-us)—>
discovered a few elements,
he seemed so psyched
to name one new element
for the Scandinavian god of thunder, Thor.

And it’s kind of funny
that with his affinity for Thorium,
he never understood
Thorium’s radioactivity
(because, well,
when he discovered Thorium,
radioactivity hadn’t
even been discovered yet).

But after Thorium was discovered,
Thorium was used
for powering gas lamps
back in the day
when the world’s light
disappeared at nightfall.
But wait, Thorium’s radioactive,
and back in the day
they didn’t know this,
so did people get cancer
from radiation poisoning?

Well, maybe if
there was enough Thorium
in those gas lamps,
and maybe if that Thorium
wasn’t stopped from
getting to humans
by the glass surrounding the lamps…
Because only if you’d
eat Thorium (and maybe
only the supernatural God Thor
would eat Thorium)
maybe only if you ate it
only then might it make you sick.
        I mean, they still sell it
        today in camping lamps,
        unless you actually look for a lamp
        that’s Thorium-free…

But even when it came
to eating Thorium,
some people would do it
back in the ‘30s with x-rays
for detecting their cancer,
because at the time Thorium
was perfect for saving lives
thanks to those x-rays.
So with Thorium for cancer x-rays,
the new cancer risk
seemed like a fair trade-off
before they could find
a safer x-ray detection agent.

So yeah, there’s no way
a Swedish chemist
could have guessed it
when he discovered
the element Thorium
and wanted to name it
after the God of Thunder,
but Thorium can bring
some light into our world,
as long as we use Thorium
in just the right way.