‘Old Star, New elemental Tricks’, bonus “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Old Star, New elemental Tricks

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series, with Arsenic (#033, As) and Selenium (#034, Se)
7/24/13

When the Big Bang first exploded,
the only elements it could muster
were hydrogen and helium
and a smidgen of lithium and boron.

Higher elements were only created
after the creation of stars.

But scientists have now discovered
that in an ancient star
in the faint stellar halo
surrounding the Milky Way,
astronomers have detected
the presence of Arsenic and Selenium.

Now, I’ve only known Arsenic
as highly toxic, and scientists
pulling phosphorus from the sextet
of life while down at the Arsenic-rich
Mono Lake to fill DNA with Arsenic.

And Selenium is used for horses,
but can kill a person if ingested
regularly (even leaving a garlic
taste when given to victims).
Hmmm, and I like garlic so much…

But these two elements,
sitting right next to each other
in the Periodic Table, transition
from light to heavy elements,
and have never been found
in old stars — until now.

You see, stars like our sun
usually make the lighter elements
(like, up to oxygen),
and heavier stars can make
elements as high in the Periodic Table
as iron. Any elements
heavier than that
(like Arsenic and Selenium)
have to be made by
neutron-capture nucleosynthesis.
So, thanks to the nuclear reaction
from inside the heaviest of stars,
scientists found Arsenic and Selenium
in a 12 billion year-old halo star.

And they say the universe
is like 13.77 billion years old,
so when I’m talking old star remanants,
I’m talking infancy of the universe stars.

(And we thought we were the only ones
who know how to utilize these
poisonous elements here on earth,
and now we see that stars
from the ancient history of this universe
have been creating this stuff for eons…)

So they’ve discovered
quite a new trick
from this old star,
which means we now know how to look
for elements in other stars,
and maybe explain why
some elements appear on earth.
Cause, it’s all science,
and we can explain away
the mysteries of what’s good
and bad here on planet earth,
and trace it all the way back
to the toddler years of
this entire universe too…

Okay, it’s all about the Oxygen, bonus “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem from Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Okay, it’s all about the Oxygen

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (&#035l8, O)
9/6/13

Okay, so I like to think of myself
as a history buff.

And no, I don’t pay attention to
American history,
or even the details of, like, the ancient
Roman Empire
or anything – for the most part,
I’m not even
interested in the history of people…
To quote Linus
in Peanuts, “I love mankind, it’s people
I can’t stand”…

Yeah, I know, my history’s older than the
human race:
how was this Solar System formed?
Or the Earth?
How was this planet able to sustain life
so that we humans
could sit around thinking about
this stuff?

As I said, when I think history,
all I can do
is gather evidence and theorize…
But really,
that just shows that there are times
when I’m actually
transfixed on a truly more universal
puzzle.

#

So look, I know I’ve studied way back
to when matter
didn’t even exist yet in this Universe,
or how matter formed.
I know theories about asteroids bringing
the building blocks
of life itself to this planet. And sure,
scientists think comets
brought water to planet Earth, too.
But when I think
of early Earth, when it formed, it was a real
mess, there were
constant bombardments with objects
from outer space,
volcanoes were going off constantly,
and the atmosphere
was all sulfur and methane, thanks
to the volatility
of Earth mach one. And okay, comets
may have brought water,
and water has Oxygen in it, but really,
back then the atmosphere
was a bunch of un-breathable stuff
to us humans.

Okay, so because there was no Oxygen
in the atmosphere,
any life that started on Earth mach one
probably thought
Oxygen was poisonous. (Because okay,
I know there’s nitrogen
in our atmosphere, but if there was
no Oxygen
and it was replaced by sulfur
we couldn’t live,
but early life living in a sulfur-rich
environment
may find Oxygen is toxic to them, right?)

Okay, so I know
the universal historian inside of me
wanted to know
how Oxygen actually got into our air,
so human life
(or any life as we know it here on Earth)
could actually begin.

#

Okay, so paleontologists study fossils,
and the found some
that are two hundred million years old,
like in Earth mach one.
Think about it: this was cyanobacteria from
two hundred million
years ago, near what scientists now call
the great Oxygen event
(which is what they call the biologically
induced
appearance of Oxygen in the air).
Well anyway,
in Earth mach one, any Oxygen that existed
was just dissolved
by the molten iron (that same iron
that formed
the Earth’s inner core, I imagine).
But the thing is,
this cyanobacteria used photosynthesis,
making Oxygen.
And once there was so much Oxygen
that it couldn’t be
dissolved into the then saturated reserves,
all that Oxygen
stayed in our atmosphere instead.

#

I don’t know, I keep trying to piece together
this puzzle,
but this whole ‘Universe puzzle’ is a pretty
massive endeavor.
I mean okay, all matter that we can monitor
only takes up
maybe four percent of this Universe.
And I still don’t
know how to fit the idea of Dark Matter
into this puzzle
I’ve been working on… So maybe
I’ll have to reassess
learning everything about everything right now,
and work
with stuff like the Oxygen around me
instead…

Nitrogen in my veins, bonus “Periodic Table” poem by Chiago poet Janet Kuypers

Nitrogen in my veins

Janet Kuypers

bonus poem from the Periodic Table of Poetry series (#007, N)
(stemming from Fingers Black, written 6/5/10)
3/29/13

You told me nothing.
You just left me.

Now wait a minute,
I’m a journalist,
so all I could do
was turn my fingers black,
scouring the newspapers,
searching for any news
about what happened
with us.

The ink from that paper
crept around my fingernails,
trying to work it’s way
under my skin.
I could feel that
darkened soybean oil,
that petroleum oil,
creeping it’s way into me.
I could feel that Nitrogen
from that petroleum oil
piggy-backing on that
hydrogen, carbon, oxygen.
I could feel that Nitrogen
butting that sulfur out of the way,
pushing it’s way
past the only trace amounts
of nickel and iron.
(Those trace elements
couldn’t stand a chance
against the power
of that Nitrogen,
that power
to spill the news
out to the world.)

I ran my hands
through those newspaper pages.
I felt that ink
seep under my skin,
and I felt the surge
of that Nitrogen in my veins.

I know they use liquid Nitrogen
to fuel cars,
to make them go
at stellar speeds…
And I know people take Nitrogen
to give their bodies
added strength,
so,
journalist or not,
maybe this is
exactly
what I need.

I’ll scour those pages,
I’ll let that Nitrogen
seep into my veins,
as I look for any way
to get you back.

Besides,
all this ink’s in me now.
This Nitrogen has given me
the impetus
for all I’ve got to say.

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

Niobium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#041, Nb)
started 7/5/13, finished 7/6/12

Niobium’s name is derived
from Greek Mythology,
from the woman Niobe,
daughter of Tantalus…

(and yes, there’s an element
Tantalum, and he’s
directly below her in the
Periodic Table, and it’s hard
to tell them apart sometimes…)

But after Niobe had more children
(seven sons and seven daughters),
and because Niobe felt she had
more prominent stature,
she asked,
“My father was a guest
at the table of the Gods.
My husband built and rules
this city. I have seven sons and
seven daughters worthy of pride.
You revere gods and goddesses
you cannot even see, but
aren’t I worthy
of goddess worship?”

Well, sounding a bit too haughty
to everyone in town,
the god Artemis
and her twin sister Apollo
used arrows for their vengeance —
Artemis killed Niobe’s daughters
Apollo killed Niobe’s sons.
I don’t know is any were spared,
but according to mythology,
when Niobe’s husband saw their dead sons,
he killed himself in grief and despair.
After losing everything.
Niobe fled to Mount Sipylus.
As she wept,
she was turned to stone,
and to this day
there is a natural rock formation there
that resembles a woman’s face,
and rainwater pours
through the porous limestone.
They call this the “Weeping Rock”
in honor of Niobe.

And sure,
Niobium is in chemicals
that are water soluble,
and Niobium is used
in superconducting magnets
(probably like how Niobe
had so many children,
and how everyone was drawn
to her beautiful face,
as she was always
resplendently adorned
in gold and jewels —
through I doubt she had
metal jewelry
made out of Niobium,
even though it turns
to a beautiful blue
when exposed to air).

Niobium is mixed with steel
to make it stronger —
since the Niobium in metal
is also more resistant to heat,
it can be used in anything
from jet engines,
to liquid rocket thrusters
for outer space.
(And as a funny twist, Niobium
is even in the main engine
of the Apollo Lunar Modules.)

You know, Niobium is often used
in commemorative coins,
with gold and silver.
So who knows,
maybe Niobe did have
Niobium in her jewelry,
as everyone admired
her beauty —
until she lost it all.

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

Manganese

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#025, Mn)
(stemming from “Became a Jungle”, written 05/17/10,
with references to “Everything Lives With Her”, written 9/2/06)
3/28/13

I wanted plants around.

She always had plants around,
everything thrived with her.

Ever since she died
my home has become a jungle.

Let me have control over this.

Let me add water nearly daily
to the plant I bought when I visited her,
or to the tree she gave me years ago.

Add plant food to the water.
Because I don’t want anything to die.

Trim the dried leaves,
because they would remind me
that even nature misses her.

Keep plants near windows,
they need their light.
Their Manganese needs it
for their chlorophyll production.

Actually, their Manganese assimilates
the carbon dioxide in photosynthesis.

So breathe in our carbon dioxide
and give me more
of my precious oxygen,
so we can realize
how we depend on each other so.

Actually, I should stock up
on Manganese plant supplements.

I’ll make sure you get everything you need.
I’ll make sure nothing happens to you.

Sodium, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Sodium


from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series
8/31/12

It’s funny that something
so common on this Earth,
the 6th most abundant element,
something so common
that it’s usually found
mixed with the ocean water…
It’s funny that something
so common on this Earth
was actually used as currency,
given to ancient Roman soldiers
in addition to their wages.
The English word for it
was even derived from “salary”,
derived from “salarium”
for the wafers for payment.
In Medieval times, “sodanum”
was used to relieve headaches.
And the element name
is probably derived
from the Arabic “suda”
for headache…
It is in the soaps we make,
and we add it to the food
we eat. It has been used
in making and bleaching paper,
it’s in water softeners,
it’s used in compounds
for industrial cleaners,
or even as a tissue dissolving agent.

It’s funny, how we have it
in kosher, iodized and rock forms
in our kitchen.

So I guess it’s fitting
that this silver-white element
(which does not occur in nature
but is derived from it’s compounds),
it’s amazing that
this abundant element
has been used in so many ways,
from creating soaps
to industrial cleaners
to even dissolving tissue…
To even flavoring our food.
In us animals, Sodium
is even needed for nerve impulses
generated in our cell membranes.
So yeah, it makes sense
that if Sodium’s so needed,
and Sodium’s so abundant,
we’d use it in as many compounds
as we possibly can
to make our lives better.

Lawrencium, Periodic Table poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Lawrencium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#103, Lr)

I’ve always tried to figure you out.
I could never pinpoint your true destiny.
All I know
is that your radio
activity to me
left my bones so brittle.
I know your heart is a hand grenade.
You’ve made my skin so paper thin.
You’re corroded me
until my lips
are forever shut.

Indium, poem from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#49, In) by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers

Indium

Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#49, In)
4/27/13

As I touch the screen display,
see images and words moving
along the small LED screen,
I feel you there, just
on the other side.

I say I’ve never needed you,
but you’ve always been just
on the other side,
displaying what I wish to see,
lubricating what cannot
meld together.
You’re as brilliant to me
as a shining silver metal
but you’ve been so fluid
that you melt when I see you.

That may be why
you’ve always been just
on the other side
when it came to us,
and only allowed me
to admire you like this
from afar.