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

Xenon

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#054, Xe)
4/27/13

I don’t care
that you’re no
Zena warrior princess,
I just can’t stand
those high-intensity
headlights of yours
at night.

You may numb me
from my pain
if I breathe you in,
but the only good
your brightness may do
is that your excitement
may add color and life
to my plasma tee vee.

But, you know,
if I love outer space,
I should like the fact
that you are the propellant
in Ion drives —
because if Xenon is the ion,
it can be shot out of a rocket
in outer space,
forcing the rocket
to move faster and faster
through the void
of outer space.

Then again,
I’m not going to outer space,
and there’s no funding
to get us humans
into outer space
right now anyway…

So I’m sorry.
you may think
you’ve got some
bright ideas,
but when I’m driving
at night,
sometimes I think
you should keep
some of your ideas
in check.

White Phosphorus, poem from the “Periodic Table of poetry” series by Chicago Poet Janet Kuypers

White Phosphorus

Janet Kuypers

Bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, #15, P
9/30/13)

Seeing bombs from Viet Nam
and the white smoke rising —
with each bomb exploding,
I knew
that smoke…
It was Willie Pete,
white Phosphorus —
you couldn’t put it out
once it started burning.
This stuff would
destroy the forests
foreign to our
U.S. troops.

I know you can’t understand.
But I wanted you to know
that I haven’t felt close
to anyone
or anything
in years.

It sounds sick,
but seeing that footage,
seeing that white smoke
from that file footage,
it brought it all back to me.
It brought the emotions
flooding back to me
like it was yesterday.

Everything that seems
so volatile
about that war,
in a way
has become a part of me,
right down to my DNA.
You look at your tv screen
and think it makes no sense,
but…
It’s a part of me.
I know I’m old now,
I know it’s only
a small part of me,
but I know I need it.
I can’t explain why,
but I do.

When you see the destruction
of Willie Pete…
Yeah, we knew what it was,
white Phosphorus,
but all of us called it that,
it was just easier
to say it then,
but…
When you see the destruction
of that white Phosphorus,
you think of it
on some existential level,
like “oh, violence is bad,”
but when I see those
bombs going off,
and when I think of
what it was like
to live in that war,
that Willie Pete —
that white Phosphorus —
to us, that was our key
to getting through that hell.
You can’t understand,
but that
was the closest we had
to getting out alive.

Vanadium, from the “Periodic Table of poetry” series by Chicago Poet Janet Kuypers

Vanadium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#023, V)
2/24/13

I’ve been going out with my boyfriend
for five years now…

And when he took me to prom
a few years ago,
his bulging biceps
almost made his tuxedo sleeves burst.

And I know he spent
four hours a day lifting weights,
I know he drank raw eggs
and took all sorts of drugs
just so he could be the strongest…

But every girl I knew
did a double-take, all agape
whenever he entered the room.

And it was the coolest thing,
climbing up into his truck
with the awesome exhaust
and the cool flames painted down the sides,
when he would take me to the movies
or drop me off for my cosmetology classes.

Now, I always thought
it was kind of weird
that he would take different drugs
just to bulk up more,
but he’d swear they were legal,
I mean,
he even told me one of them was just
a harmless element called Vanadium,
and I don’t know,
when he said “element”
I just thought about how
I just kind of tuned out
in chemistry class,
so I typed “Vanadium”
into my smart phone,
and I didn’t see anything
about it being bad for you
or illegal or anything…

All the girls in school would ask me
if I would stick with him
after I got a job out of school…

And the thing is,
now that my twenty-third birthday
is coming up,
I’ve got a job
and I’ve been doing really well…

And he’s been dropping hints
like he might pop the question
on my birthday this June.

But he was acting really weird,
so I thought
something was fishy,
so I checked out his smart phone
for any ideas of what he might be doing
for my birthday…

And that’s when I saw
“Vanadium” on a web page link,
and I thought,
‘Oh no, is he doing MORE
to try to get even BIGGER?’…

So I went to the web page,
and I saw that Vanadium
was added to “corundum”
(what? I don’t even know
what corundum IS),
but Vanadium is added to it
to make simulated Alexandrite gemstones.

Now, wait a minute,
I know Alexandrite is my birthhtone,
and it’s only found in like Russia.
It’s really cool, it changes color
in different light,
but it’s WAY expensive,
like more than diamonds or anything,
so I figured I could never afford
any Alexandrite.

And you know,
now that I’m out of school
I’ve got a really good job at the salon,
and after being promoted
they’re looking to promote me again,
I’m starting to feel
like I can actually
GO somewhere in my life.

So now that I think about it,
I mean, it was great
to hang off my bodybuilder’s arm
all these years,
but maybe now I should start
to stand up for myself.
I mean,
he may have thought he needed Vanadium
to make himself bigger,
but there’s no way
I’m going to take an Alexandrite rip-off
with Vanadium
if that’s the best he can do…

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

Ununtrium
Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#113, Uut)
elements derived from the poem“Tall Man”
10/23/13

I can never hold you.
But when I step
within those walls
where I first found you,
I can then feel your presence
across the room.
A movement, a stir.
I feel it.
I can sense you
as the seconds slip by,
but after only
twenty moments,
I snap out of it.
I know you’re gone.

I compare you
to your friends,
and your heaviness
weighs me down.
You, with your long shadow
stretched across those walls,

you’ll only disappear again.

An occasional glance —
I’ll take whatever I can take.
Glimpses of your strength
is all I can capture
before you seem to
dart away
at what seems
to be
the speed of light.

You’re a stranger.
You stay tightly wound in your world.
But I want crack
your dense shell.
I want to know you.

I’ve sensed you.

And for some reason,
I feel I know you all too well.

Tritium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” bonus poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Tritium

Janet Kuypers

(Bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, molecule 3H
based on Hydrogen element #1, also known as hydrogen-3)
12/24/13

So my husband has this nice Fossil watch
that he wears only when we go out on nice dates now.
You see, he says he doesn’t need a watch
because he has his cell phone with him at all times,
and it always tells time in accordance with GPS.

But recently he broke down and bought another watch,
one that looks like a small child should wear it,
with a huge black band and face and neon glowing hands.

Lovely, I thought,
I thought just using the cell phone was bad enough.
So I asked about the glowing hands on his watch
(and thought about the original radium watch faces
painted by women who got cancer from radiation).
And he said no, the numbers and dials are covered in
Tritium.

And I thought, great,
another element that probably will leak
into people causing certain eventual death.
But he said no, this is safe, it’s only an isotope of hydrogen.

And I thought, oh…
So it’s just another boring element that we
Americans are using to try to make life easier
for people who grow tired of using their eyes.

I don’t think he liked my saying that.
So he said, wait a minute
(knowing how I seem to like learning about
Atomic bombs and World War Two and the like),
Tritium is used in the process of making the
Hydrogen bomb.

Hmmm.

So I read that Tritium for American nuclear weapons
was produced in special heavy water reactors.
But tritium undergoes radioactive decay
(ergo the glowing watch faces, I’d wonder,
though I’m sure he’s stress that there’s
no dangerous radioactivity in his watch –
oh wait, he said it’s “safe” radioactivity),
but Tritium’s used in “boosting”, increasing
the speed and yield of fission bombs.

And yeah, he was trying to get me to like
his child-like black glow-in-the-dark watch
by linking it with heavy water in WWII
and Hitler’s efforts to get the bomb first.
Scary to think that tactic might work with me,
but at least he’s trying to get me like
the watch that he chooses to wear.

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

Titanium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#22, Ti)
(based on the poem “The Way You Tease Me”)
10/1/13

What I think I like the most about you
is the way you always leave me wanting more.
The longer I’m out in the sun, the more red
my nose and cheeks get, and the more I want
to slather you all over me to protect me.

What I think I like the most about you is how
whenever I see you around me, you consume me
like a wave of heat on a summer afternoon.
Seeing your metal along my flesh teases me
until sweat dances down my hairline and tickles my neck.

What I think I like the most about you
is when you say that absence makes the heart grow fonder,
because you’re like the fireworks I only see
on special occasions, and with your absence
I want you more, so you couldn’t be more right.

What I think I like the most about you
are the things that make me think I have to fight for you,
are the things that make you cost just too much.
It’s true, the market determines your worth to the world,
even if you’re always priceless to me.

What I think I like the most about you
is the fact that you can lead the way to help me
fly high into the sky, so I could see any corner
of the Earth, or even see the Universe beyond
our narrow global vision. You do that for me.

What I think I like the most about you
is the fact that you seem so common in the world,
but you manage to hide yourself in just the right way.
But still, you’re everywhere from dental implants to cell phones,
to engagement rings to jet engines to space ships…

What I think I like the most about you
is the wondering about you, is the yearning for you.
That’s what I like. This high-charged guessing game.
You make me work so hard just to find you. You leave me
to think about the possibilities. And that’s what I like.

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

Tellurium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#52, Te)
7/13/13

When a couple is meant to be together
(but at their core they’re nothing alike),
you can see them come together almost violently,
before their anger pushes them away from each other.

Until they do it again, and again, and again.
It’s like they can’t stop. They can’t help it.

They rush to each other for a mad embrace,
they feel intense attraction that they can’t escape,
‘til they know despite their lust, they hate each other so,
and they do everything they can to break free.

It’s a sick cycle they’re stuck in.
This coming together. Then rushing apart.

#

There’s electricity in the air. I hear the buzz
whenever I walk by that street corner and see
all of the electrical wires, crossing in every direction —
I can hear the loose electricity jumping into the air.

Do you know why electric wires are spaced far apart
when they’re up high on poles like that? Well,
that’s because those Tellurium metal alloy wires
up high in the sky like that aren’t even insulated —

and they have a strong magnetic field with all that electricity
coursing through them. If wires were closer to each other
while up in the air, the wires would swing toward each other
because of their insanely strong magnetic attraction.

In being drawn to each other, an arc may form
between the wires, destroying them almost instantly.

But then again, magnetism in the wires switches polarity
a hundred and twenty times every second
(because ofelectricity’s sixty hertz frequency)…

That would make those wires want to repel each other
as often as they were magnetically drawn to each other.
So yes, for one hundred twenty times every second,
these wires would vibrate back and forth.

So if there’s no electric arc, these Tellurium metal
alloy wires would vibrate so intensely and violently,
that if they weren’t kept far apart
they would destroy each other, vibrating.

#

Tellurium is used in alloys with steel
to make high-strength conductors.
Abundant cosmically but rare on Earth,
it’s often found combined with gold:

in the first gold rush, this mix looked like waste,
so they used it to fill potholes or sidewalks.
Once they realized it was Tellurium and gold,
there was a second gold rush…

Acute poisoning with Tellurium is rare;
most organisms tolerate Tellurium.
Organic tellurides have antioxidant activity.
and can even be used to identify pathogens

responsible for diphtheria.
It’s optical refraction makes it perfect for glass.
It’s been used in color ceramics,
and gives rubber heat resistance,

In copper, iron, lead or stainless steel,
it makes the metals more machinable,
improving solar cell efficiency and electric
power generation, so it helps any energy.

I don’t know,
maybe that explains why
we’ve been feeling
this electricity in the air.

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

Technetium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry”” series (#43, Tc)
7/10/13

You’re named from the Greek word for “artificial”,
because you were the first element man ever made…

We wanted to discover, we wanted to find you out —
we’d even create you if this was the only way.

We can only find you after your brethren
have been broken apart to reveal you. But the thing is,

your name is a bit misleading, though, since
you can be found naturally, albeit in trace amounts.

Though it’s funny, we searched for you for so long,
and now we discover that you’re a by-product

of our nuclear power stations. Then everyone thought
we wouldn’t know what to do with nuclear waste.

You’ve been put into the environment as
“low-level-waste” for nearly half a century,

but what I’ve learned is that doctors inject
small amounts of you into patients with tumors,

so they can see exactly where they need to heal people.
People wondered what we’d do with our nuclear waste,

but now you’re used in 20 million medical procedures
each year, because your short half-life makes you safe

and the way you decay helps doctors see
exactly what they need to do to save a life.

And yeah, you’re nuclear waste injected into a human,
but they need such a small amount that radiation is low.

It’s hard to believe that we searched for you for so long,
and now that you’re injected into 20 million patients —

in North America alone — every year,
it’s good that we finally found you out.