Thallium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#81, Tl) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Thallium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#81, Tl)
started 2/7/14, finished 2/8/14

I swirled the wine glass in my hand.
I watched the red wine swirl,
creeping it’s way to the lip
as I hypnotically observe the vortex.

I like drinking my red wine from those
low, wide-mouthed glasses
so you could smell the sweet aroma
without even drinking. But now,

now I check my fingernails,
looking for dark ridges. I wonder if I
should pull out a few hairs
and check the roots for telltale stripes.

I scan my brain to check if I have enemies,
the coast seems clear, but still I fear
that this precious liquid I hold in my hand
could be the vehicle for my demise.

And no, my liver’s fine, it was just tested,
and I’m not talking about alcohol poisoning
unless it’s because someone put something
in my drink I wouldn’t taste, or smell, or see.

But my brain now flashes to Thallium,
this superconductor, once used to treat
syphilis, gonorrhea, or even tuberculosis
is such a highly toxic heavy metal

that it was used for rat poisoning,
and sometimes even for hair removal
(yeah, trace amounts of Thallium can even
make you lose your hair). But the thing is,

I’ve heard that if you drop it into somethnig like,
say, red wine, no one would be the wiser
and you could kill someone without your victim
even knowing they were ever in danger.

If I keep this up, I’ll really start to worry
whenever my stomach hurts, whenever I feel
nauseous, or even have diarrhea.
If I feel numbness, or tingling and pain,

I’ll second-guess myself. I’ll have to check
the shower drain for excessive hair loss,
and I’ll check my fingernails and follicles again
to make sure I’m in the clear.

Rutherfordium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#104, Rf) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Rutherfordium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#104, Rf)
7/3/14

And when I get that engagement ring…
I don’t want Zirconium, I want a diamond!
I want something stronger!
Even the band,
everyone wants Gold,
but Platinum is stronger,
even Tungsten
(which has a cool goth sound to it)…
What’s the strongest element out there – Iridium?
Hey, that’s the stuff that was in the asteroid
that killed all the dinosaurs!
‘Cuz that stuff’s so strong that it’s brittle
and can’t even be bent into a wedding band…
But I want the biggest, strongest ring on my finger
because I want EVERYONE to know
that I’m gonna be the bride!

Because I’ve really had my heart set
on this one amazing man, Ernest.
(Isn’t that the coolest name, Ernest?
I mean, I’m being earnest with you,
that’s his name, and it sounds so cool!)
You see, he’s from the Rutherford family
and I’m so taken with him.
Oh, and get this, he was born in New Zealand
and now lives in the U.K. — this man
must know the world,
and I think I’m gonna melt!
But the things is, whenever he’s around
he’s only around for fleeting moments,
he mixes with friends
and his isotopes are around for as long as an hour,
but sometimes only for ten minutes,
and sometimes just for a minute or two…
So I ever get the chance to be with him
long enough to tell him how I feel.

My friends tell me not to bother,
because his radioactive personality
(that I’m so drawn to)
means that if I get too close
he might be trouble for me.

Well, I may not be the smartest girl
if he is such a strong and intelligent man,
but I’ve been doing all the research I can
about him. When it comes to researh,
I want to work with him,
and I want to learn.
I only hope he’ll let me.

Rhenium poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#75, Re) from the Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Rhenium,

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#75, Re)
(started 8/7/14, written 8/8/14, finished 8/9/14)

Okay, so I’ve been researching
these elements in the Periodic Table,
and when I got to Rhenium
(named for the Rhine river, by the way),
I was kind of stumped.
What comes to your head
when you hear the word “Rhenium”?
Other than the fact that
“Rhenium” was an LP from Parliment
released in nineteen seventy,
I was stumped.

But hey, this element was named after the Rhine river
stretching through Europe,
but in ancient Greek Times,
they thought of the Rhine
as the outermost border
of civilization and reason,
beyond which were mythical creatures.
No lie.

But I don’t know if that mythical nature
of the unknown is what drove scientists
to search for this element,
and to learn everything they could
about what was otherwise unknown to them…

I mean, Mendeleev, the “creator”
as we know it of the Periodic Table,
postulated this element’s existence,
but it wasn’t found in his lifetime…
and it was later predicted
by an English physicist in 1913,
but it still hadn’t been discovered.

But people in different countries
claimed the discovery
through X-ray analysis,
but after a ton of dispute
this elusive element was finally found,
and as all scientists like to think,
this discovery has to mean something,
I mean, we have to use this discovery
for ssomething, so people
will appreciate our precious work!

Well they found out that Rhenium
(now that airplanes were being used more and more
by both vacationers and business travelers)
can be used with super alloys
to make jet engine parts
(well, I guess that’s cool
for the jet-setters out there…)
but, after people figured out
that putting lead in high-performance fuel
might not be good for the environment
(okay, or for people),
they found that Rhenium
could be a catalyst
for making lead-free
high-octane gasoline.

Since we now have means to travel faster and farther
(thanks to Rhenium in part, by the way),
we might not think of the Rhine as the edge of our existence
with anything beyond it being so mysterious.
But when it comes to Rhenium,
it’s one of the rarest elements in Earth’s crust
(I wonder if that’s why it took so long to discover it.)
Because of it’s radioactivity,
it’s used in the treatment of liver cancer
(and maybe pancreatic cancer too),
but with the skyrocketing price of this rare element,
scientists still worry about the potential toxicity of Rhenium.
So, maybe like the mythical creatures
beyond the Rhine the Greeks foretold,
maybe, after discovering Rhenium,
maybe we should be looking
at both the bad — and the good —
that can come out of the rare,
but radical,
and remarkable Rhenium.