Fermium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Fermium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#100, Fm)
including the poem “Each Half is the Enemy”
8/10/13

When the bulldog ant of Australia
is cut in half,
the halves see each other as enemies.

The head attempts to devour the tail.
And the tail,
in an effort to defend itself,

battles for up to thirty minutes
to sting the head.
And this battle happens everywhere

in the world, because life is always
that battle
between the two halves of the whole.

#

Because everything contains that twin,
one part good,
and one part you’ve construed into something

so horribly wrong. And you want to tear it apart,
that other half,
you despise everything about it —

everything that somehow is a part
of you.
So you, in life, always possess that battle.

#

This even applies on a molecular level.
Consider hydrogen:
it’s in our water we drink and bathe in,

and atomically, we’re sixty-seven percent
hydrogen.
But on November first nineteen fifty two,

“Ivy Mike” was the code name
for the first
successful test of the hydrogen bomb.

It’s funny how we can take something
so needed for our life
and, like our sun, turn it into something

to destroy everything we know.
Because as I said,
one side gives life, the other kills.

#

And thanks to “Ivy Mike” and that
hydrogen bomb,
two elements were discovered —

one of them was named after physicist
Enrico Fermi.
You see, Fermi worked on “Chicago Pile-1,”

the first nuclear reactor. Fermi worked
in a space
under Chicago University’s then unused

football stadium bleachers. That’s because
the school
had not used the football stadium

for three years, because the school
thought sports
were a distraction from academics.

Fermi, “the father of the atomic bomb”.
also worked
on the Manhattan project, and Fermilab

outside of Chicago was named after him.
And here’s the kick:
the hydrogen device that produced

Fermium was designed by Richard Garwin,
Enrico Fermi’s student.
So for all that Enrico Fermi had done,

it seems fitting that Fermium is
the heaviest
element formed by the nuclear

bombardment of lighter elements
(like hydrogen).
And this highly radioactive element

was initially kept secret due to the
cold war.
But it’s amazing what we can discover

while taking something we so need
for life,
and turning it into an instrument of death.

#

Because Fermium was classified
in the cold war,
Swiss scientists bombarding oxygen,

discovering an isotope if it, and wanted
to name it
centurium (to honor element one hundred).

Good thing Fermi’s nuclear work got
declassified, so they
could honor Enrico Fermi with “Fermium”.

But wait, Fermium is bad, it’s radioactive,
there can’t be
any good applications for it…

Well, consider the two sides of any twin:
Fermium’s the only
element that can use it’s alpha particles

in radio therapy for cancer. And yes,
it’s radioactive,
but it’s short half life means it decays

quickly. Because as I said, it’s amazing
how two sides
can be both bad, and also so good.

Actinium, “Periodic Table” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Actinium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#089, Ac)

So at my old job
we had to work with
this piece of machinery
that in order for it to work,
needed to be powered
by eight D cell batteries.

Yeah, we could have
plugged it in,
but there never was an outlet
in the places where
we actually used
this machinery.

And these eight
D cell batteries
we had to use
were lasting only
like
two to four hours,
so we had to
go through anywhere
from four to eight
sets of batteries a day.

I mean, that’s insane,
having to go through
all that battery power,
so I called the manufacturer
to see if any battery packs
had a longer life,
I even asked
if rechargeable battery packs
existed for it.
They said there were no
rechargeable battery packs,
but a sales engineer there
said they had a special
long life battery pack
that lasts several years.
Sounds like a good plan,
so I asked for pricing,
and found out it was
thousands of dollars.

Yeah, this battery pack
could run from
fourteen thousand dollars
to upwards of
forty thousand dollars…

But I was prepared to go
to our supervisor with
these figures, because
yeah, that’s a lot of money,
but if we keep using this machine
we’ll spend that on batteries
in less time.

So I called that sales engineer
again for more information,
and that’s when he told me
sorry, we couldn’t buy it.
Now, I know it’s expensive,
but I had to know what’s up,
and he said they could only sell it
to NASA,
the DOD,
and select US government agencies.

So yeah, I had to ask why,
and found out it was a special
radioactive thermoelectric battery
for use in outer space.

it seems that the
radioactive Actinium
was the fuel
for the work
that I need to do.

I guess it figures,
that the only thing
that could help out my work
is something insanely rare,
and insanely expensive,
and it’s best suited
for spacecraft —
not down here,
where I’ve got work to do….

Ununoctium, “Periodic Table” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Ununoctium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#118, Uuo)

I first only heard of you a decade ago.
You seemed so reactive, so unstable,
and yet I was so attracted to you.
I should have known better.

I should have known that
your radioactive personality would
cause your destruction, so I guess
I’m glad I’m not around to see it.

I have only seen you three or four times
since you started to self-destruct,
so from afar I can only guess
what you’re made of, or what you can do.

But still, I can’t get you out of my mind,
so I’m left here to guess about you,
based on what little I could ever infer
about you. This is all you leave me.

When I saw you before, you seemed
kind, and noble when you were with me…
But that was before I saw what you
were made of, how hard you could be.

So much emanated from you with me,
but you’ve systematically shattered
any preconceived notions of who you are,
that I don’t even know what to believe.

You’re that explosive, and I’ve been
unsuccessful in any attempts to synthesize
with you… It’s funny, you seem
like you want to be discovered,

but I can only predict, calculate, or
extrapolate what I think you can do.
If only you would let me crack your shell
so I could see what you’re made of…

Francium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kupers

Francium

by Janet Kuypers

of Scars Publications
from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#087, Fr)

Thinking of you,
I’m reminded
of someone taking his mother’s guns
and killing her in an elementary school,
then taking out twenty children,
then five more adults,
before taking his own life.

Remembering your destructive ways
reminds me of going to a movie on opening night
before someone walks in,
cloaked in dark clothes
setting off smoke bombs
before killing anyone he could.

Your metallic personality,
you and your radioactive ways,
you decayed anything you touched.

So you wonder why I correlate you
to any and all destruction,
the way you’d be the instrument of death
by slamming so much fuel,
so much metal, so much life
into the tallest building you could find,
killing anything that crossed your path.

And yeah, I’d correlate you
with the government claiming to play nice
while you helped over eighty faithful followers
disintegrate in a fiery cataclysm.

I’ve seen what you can do.
I can’t help but make the connections.

In such a short burst of time,
you’ve killed seven
in a Sikh temple.

I’ve never seen you for long enough
to think I can know what you
might be like in bulk.
As I’ve said,
I’ve only seen you in these short bursts.

But oh,
what you’ve done
in those
short
bursts.

I think it’s funny
how you unintentionally
chose Hitler’s birthday
to kill thirteen teens,
injure over twenty more,
on an otherwise average school day.

I know, I know you’re rare,
but when I see you,
the world sees you,
and we can’t forget.
I know it’s such a little amount of you
that exists at any time
throughout the entirety of the Earth,
and I know others
have tried to create you synthetically,
to try to learn from you,
but those amounts have still been too small
to make any difference.

It’s sad, that this is the way
you normally are —
your instability make me think
that you just can’t be real—
and I know that your rampages
usually last no more than twenty,
maybe as long as twenty-two minutes.

I’m just afraid
that you are becoming
more and more common in life.

After all of these years,
you have always been rare,
but your repeated appearances
in our lives scare me.
I know that with you, everything falls apart
so suddenly, so quickly so violently.
How much longer
will we cross our fingers,
while we anticipate
our next chance encounter?

Lead, periodic table poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Lead

by Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#082, Pb)

I walked into the bedroom,
opened the closet door,
pulled out the cardboard box,
then opened it to pull out
a pistol case.
I set the piston case down,
opened it,
saw the unloaded twenty-two
and the filled magazine.
I held the magazine
filled with Lead bullets,
reminding myself
that it was always an option.

There’s so much more weight
in those Lead bullets.
They feel heavy in my hand.

Then again,
Lead aprons to protect you from x-rays
are heavy, too.

Lead is so common,
used for thousands of years,
from the Bronze Age,
pushing the Roman economy.
The name for plumbing
even comes from the Latin
“plumbum” because
Lead pipes were used.

And after all these years,
Lead’s not even used
in lead pencils,
that writing stylus
is just a lead mockup. . .

Because Lead comes
from the decay of uranium,
and sometimes could be radioactive,
but still, it can protect you
from things like x-rays
or even nuclear contamination.

So yeah, it can protect you,
and it can also be the missile
in an instrument of death.

As I said,
These bullets
feel so heavy
in my hands.

Astatine in a Fantastic Car Crash

Astatine in a Fantastic Car Crash

by Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

And our life is one big road trip now,
and we set the cruise control
and make our way down the expressway.

And most of the time we’re just moving
in a straight line, and the scenery
blurs. There’s nothing to see.

But I know what’s inside of you
and I know what you’re made of.
There’s no such thing as a calm with you.

You are a fantastic car crash.
You stop traffic in both directions —
In your twisted way, you come from the decay

of others… And what do you leave
in your wake? More radioactive destruction,
as all around you slows down to stare,

and all the gapers gawk, as the decay grows.

Everything shatters with you, you know.
It’s a spectacular explosion,
until your instability corrodes you down

to the basics in the world. And yeah,
what was left of you after you were gone
is so much more stable than what you were,

but still, I’d duck and cover
as metal flies through the air. Every time
you leave the scene of the accident,

I am left picking up the shards of glass
from the windows. You know, the glass breaks
into such tiny little pieces. They look like ice.

It takes so long to pick up the pieces,
and even though I’m careful,
I’m still picking up the pieces

after dealing with only fractional amounts of you.
I’ve only been able to infer what you’re like
by knowing your brethren,

while I’m stuck here, picking up the pieces,
and I’m still on my knees.
The glass cuts into my hands,

because it was only after so much
of your destruction that you left blood
drip
ping down to the street
.

think of this as your contribution,
this radioactive short-term flash of decay

think of this as your contribution

to this fantastic car crash
that is you, that is me,
that is us.

I’ve tried to learn, I’ve tried to study
these microscopic parts of you
to make sense of you…

But whether or not you ever leave enough,
despite your destruction,
despite this decay of yours,

I have to keep reminding myself
that when it comes to you,
This is what you do.

This happens all the time.
So,
I to pull the glass from my hands

and I wave my hand to the line of traffic:
go ahead, keep driving, this happens
all the time, there’s nothing to see here.

Einsteinium poem by Janet Kuypers

Einsteinium

Janet Kuypers

from the “ Periodic Table of Poetry” series

Einstein understood
that everything was relative…

Why did he have to worry
about brushing his hair
or changing out of his pajamas
when he was busy grappling
with the foundations of phyics?

And once he fathomed
the relationship
between matter and energy,
once he understood
the interconnectivity
between matter and energy —

he suddenly understood,
after this Jewish physicist
left his home in Germany,
that Hitler and the Third Reich
could be working on an atomic bomb,
converting so little matter
into so much devastating energy.

At this time, he understood
the need for Roosevelt
to create this weapon
so the Germans wouldn’t destroy us.

The gravity of this discovery
in the hands of evil men
weighed him down,
and even months
before he died,
Einstein wrote
that although the devastation
in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
seemed unfathomably horrific
and he regretted writing
that letter to Roosevelt,
his justification
was the threat of Germany.
When he wrote that letter,
he still had to appeal to Roosevelt,
that yes, to save us from Germany,
this weapon needed to be created.

Knowing about his torment
in making this decision
to ask for the creation
of the atomic bomb,
makes it so ironically beautiful
that after scientists
discovered an element
after the first explosion
of the hydrogen bomb,
they named the element Einsteinium
after the physicist.

How
ironically
beautiful.

Einsteinium is a silvery-white,
radioactive, synthetic element
with a high fission rate,
like the atomic bombs
Einstein first knew of
when fearing his homeland enemy.
But because of the short half-life
of all isotopes of Einsteinium,
all primordial Einsteinium
has decayed by now,
and beyond it’s nuclear creation,
there is almost no use
for any isotope of Einsteinium
outside of basic scientific research…

Which makes me think of the
life of Albert Einstein, I suppose,
for although Einstein worked
at odd jobs for years
until he was a patent examiner,
his mind was only good at one thing:
doing not-so-basic scientific research,
solving scientific fundamental puzzles,
if only he had the time
to study the puzzle long enough.

photos of Janet Kuypers and Albert Einstein with their tongues sticking out

Krypton poem by Janet Kuypers

Krypton

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
why.

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.