Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 30: Quintessence

In ancient times it was taught
There was air and water, fire and earth
Some thought there was a fifth
 to make it all complete.

Democritus and Galilei
Mendeleev and Lavoisier
Said all was atoms
Nothing more or less.
Ether proved ethereal.

Now learned astronomers
track the motions of the stars
and find there must be
more under the sun. 

One hundred eighteen elements
are known to us
and yet
five-sixths of the universe
must be made of
something else.

Chemical Elements Poems 29: If We Grant That Love Is Like Oxygen

If we grant
that love is like oxygen,
does that mean
lust is like ozone:
perhaps related
to love
but not something
your body can use
to live on?

Or perhaps lust
is like carbon monoxide,
binding to the blood
and fooling it
into thinking
it's getting oxygen?

And what, then, is water?
Too much won't get you high
but it will cause
bloating and  discomfort.

Perhaps the lesson
is that chemical compounds
are not easily mapped
onto feelings and sensations
after all.

Chemical Elements Poems 28: Object of Alchemists' Desire

Object of alchemists' desire,
metal of medals,
of fleece and fleecing.

As a rule it does
like no other,
leaving aside
calves or laying geese.

All that has been
dug from the Earth
in thousands of years
would fit in a few
swimming pools.
If all sold it could buy up
all of Manhattan
and all of Florida
a couple of times over.

Midas would tell you
other things glitter
more brightly. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 27: Alpha Noble


made in the Big Bang
fused in the Sun
ejected from
radioactive nuclei

one-quarter of normal matter,
abundant through
the universe.
we fill balloons
and let them soar
to meet their alpha siblings.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 26: Village Quarry, Baltic Isle

Village quarry,
Baltic isle.
In the form of a black rock,
fate visits.

Mother lode in
discarded slag;
another's treasure.
Chemists delight
in discovery's glow, 
before the period.

Four elements named
for the village, 
another three
with roots in the 
same ground.
Rare earth, indeed.

Chemical Elements Poems 25: Lucky Thirteen

Lucky thirteen.
Sapphire and ruby,
foil and can,
rock and dirt.
Its decay heated
the planets.

Once deemed
for the banquets
of an emperor,
now it's used
to carry Fresca.

I'm a couple of poems behind.  I'm coming back from vacation today, hope to catch the rest of the way back up!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 24: Three Isotopes, Twelve Lines

Two thirty eight has a half-life of most of a century.
It powers spacecraft distant from the Sun. 
Congress won't approve making more of the stuff, 
NASA will be up a tree when stockpile's done. 

Two thirty nine is fissile so it's been used a lot,
its history in reactors is sometimes rocky. 
It sustains chain reactions that are either fast or slow, 
to the lasting detriment of Nagasaki. 

Two forty four has been around since the world began
though the last of it will decay before long.  
It has no use in weapons, it has no use for heat.
It has no use at all, for right or wrong. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 23: Heartbreaker

Shield maker, 
alpha protector.
Even kryptonite cannot

Time keeper,
atoms flee to you 
for stability,
shedding protons and neutrons 
to reach you

your sweet taste 
on the walls 
tempts Maids
til they Live and Love
no more. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 22: Argent Pure, Vert Exposed

Argent pure, vert exposed,

sable when burned.
Mixed in Misch.

Used to make
ersatz olivine
when you need 
to copy 
the most abundant mineral
on Earth.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 21: Rusty Irony

It gave its name to an age
and though humanity
has turned the page
to other materials
it still has a place.

Members of the human race
use it to fortify
foods and forts 
and signify
strong wills and artificial lungs.

But more than simply on our tongues,
though most of it is in the core
enough remains in the crust
for banded rocks in days of yore
though most now simply turns to rust.
Isn't that ironic?

Chemical Elements Poems 20: Davy Weeps

They ruled the waves and developed geology.
Their engineers tamed machines
and made them work to 
enhance the treasury.
Their explorers found Hawaii,
founded Singapore,
floundered on the Southern Continent.

Their pre-eminence coincided 
with the end of alchemy,
the triumph of science.

Was it unexpected
that left them
no place 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 19: U before O

One short of
perfect ten,
its disposition can be rather 

Fittingly born in
(and borne on)
stellar flows,
it made martyrs of many
as it found their
precious bodily fluids.

We worried
it would steal our ozone,
but it helps 
coat our pans and our teeth.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 18: Ointments and Amalgams

Eternal life did not come
to Qin Shi Huang Di.
The first matter was his last,
and messengers of silver water
would only bring company in misery,
not alchemy.

Ointments and amalgams,
you don't need a thermometer
to know how mad the hatter is.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 17: Doubly Magical

Iron-loving, core-dwelling.
Born of silicon and iron,
blamed on the devil and
doubly magical.

Hitchhiking here
in the scattered remains
of violence,
If all Earth's supply were a dollar
less than a penny
would be in the crust,
much less five cents.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 16: Bituminous and Emerald Cut

Carbon does not
deserve a poem
but a book of poetry
bituminous and emerald cut
by standard #2. 

Black and white,
animal and vegetable,
virus and fungus.
Life as we know it
and life we have yet to know.

The redwoods are made
of the carbon we exhale,
breath becomes wood
before leaf becomes muscle.

It has helped make
Venus' hell
and it coats the
poles of Mars
Not just a girl's
best friend
but all of ours.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 15: I Have a Degree in Science

I have a degree in science
and I like to think
I'm educated,
but damn
if I could
tell you anything
about scandium.

If I said
it turns blue on exposure
to water
or it's used as an alloy
in baseball bats
or that it's interchangeable
with yttrium
in the mineral thortveitite
would you know better?

If you'd asked me before
I just looked it up
I wouldn't even have
it's actually an element and not
something made up
to sound like an element.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 14: None has higher density

Metals have a propensity
toward quite high density
but none has higher density than this.
And if you ever get the yen
you'll find it in the nib of your pen
(where it is quite easy to miss).

Toxic and named for its smell,
perhaps it is just as well
it's only parts per trillion in the crust.
You may or may not be surprised
to find it octup'ly ionized,
but try to avoid it if it's ground to dust.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 13: Dominating Lesser Airs

Noxious air, and lifeless
Yet it abides us here,
content to dominate lesser airs
and put bubbles in our stouts,
one part in fifty of our
lively bodies.

Liquid, it removes our warts,
enables our superconductors,
and cools our cameras
so our telescopes can see it,
on the surfaces of Triton and Pluto.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 12: Named for the Eighth Planet

It was named for the eight planet,
or what was the eighth planet
at the time.

Rare earth most common.
Still, six cents a gram
is more filet mignon
than cereal.

One hundred billion tons
waits on its namesake,
easier to retrieve than any
neptunium on Neptune.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 11: A Tale from the Niobium Rush

In the tiny town of Snowflake
before the train made it to town,
there was a righteous group of miners
who hoped to spread some wealth around.

Niobium was their ambition,
niobium was what they sought
to build their palaces and gardens
and pay for all the things they bought.

Nowadays it's used in welding
or sometimes alloyed into steel
but in the days we now consider
there was universal appeal.

So when the miners hit a gusher
and pure niobium appeared
they thanked the heavens for their fortune
and rolled out their kegs of beer.

A grand hotel came in to Snowflake
so did the track and Jenny Lind,
the river rats and carpetbaggers,
houses of worship and of sin.

But all too soon the rush was ended,
rare earth barons all but done,
they packed their things and followed fashion
and went in search of tantalum

If you go today to Snowflake,
book a room and do behold
the glory of the bygone ages
when niobium was gold.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 10: Green Paris and Blue Agents

King of Poisons, Poison of Kings.
Garlic when struck you sneak,
in our water and wood it lurks.
Alien life may thrive on it,
but here it is
hints of green Paris
and blue agents
for striving, chalk-eating commoners.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 9: Three haiku for Kimberly

Like bismuth except
it's completely unstable,

Curie discovered,
named it after her homeland.
It makes air glow blue.

Workers in Russia
used it to heat lunar craft
and kill dissidents.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 8: other teeth, other bones

born from sulfur and helium and argon
on the day an alien sun died,
it found its way here.
in white specks it wandered
the gaseous seas
before the first water droplets,
before the first sand grains.

did it come via other teeth, other bones?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 7: Fourteen Atoms, Twenty Seconds

It is out there, apparently
if just for seconds at a time.
All of our accelerators' prime
technicians have contrived
fourteen atoms worth
to study.

Lucky number one-thirteen
in the lucky thirteenth group.
From a high energy soup
of californium and neptunium
it forms
before it will decay.

Perhaps one day
they'll name it,
Japonium or Rikenium,
Sic transit gloria,
twenty seconds worth of atom.

Chemical Elements Poems 6: 27 Lines About Molybdenum

I like the way molybdenum
sounds and looks.
The word, I mean. 
I've not seen molybdenum in person
nor heard it.
Not that I know what it would
sound like.
It's a metal, so I'd guess it'd
go clang or something
if you whacked it against a desk
or hit it with a hammer.

Since it's harder than iron or steel,
you might want to use
someone else's hammer
if you do hit it.

Molybdenum means lead
which is a bit confusing since
it's not lead.  Lead is something else.
It was also confused with graphite
though nobody made pencils out of it
that I know of. 
I admit I haven't researched that part much.

Too much molybdenum causes gout,
infertility, and diarrhea.
It is, however better than too much lead.
it is unlikely you'll get too much molybdenum.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 5: Nirvana at Sixes and Sevens

Big Bang created, destroyed in starry hearts,
as salts, in batteries, some reach for you
to conquer the poles
while we listen for nirvana at sixes and sevens.

Big Bang created, destroyed in fusion bombs,
your crimson flame is not easily extinguished
though the biologists say we can live without you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 4: Metal and Metaphor

It was called little silver and white gold
and the only metal fit for a king
or a queen mother.
It was the only metal fit for SI,
measuring meters and masses.

In a pile of rock the weight of the Titanic
you may expect an ounce of platinum.

You may think it more metaphor than metal:
shades of blonde and best-sellers,
and high-limit credit cards,
but most of it ends up in junkyards
inside rusting-out beaters.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 3: Morning Star Echoes

Black and red, violet and white,
morning star echoes bone and apatite.
Willie Peter traces with urine's remains,
Arsenic replaces but community complains
Smoke bombs and toothpaste, lucifer in match head
Black and white, violet and red.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 2: Noble Most Common

Noble most common,
cheap as the air
and found dating rocks.

Though lazily
willing to mix with
the reactive crowd
it will still protect the Constitution.

Perhaps she remembers
earthier beginnings
birthed from plant ash
and feldspar.


Perhaps I should make readers guess the relevant elements? :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chemical Elements Poems 1: hydrogen or nothing

let me begin at the beginning.

it was once hydrogen or nothing,
and it is still pretty much hydrogen 
or nothing.

simple but no bohr, 
this one is not lonely
water-former giving light
sun to enewetak
balmy atoll become balmer.

National Poetry Writing Month 2011

Last year I took part in National Poetry Writing Month right here on this blog, writing 30 poems about baseball (one for each team).  It's come up again (as it does every April) and after some waffling I've decided to do it again.  This year's theme is apparently going to be The Periodic Table of the Elements, much to my surprise.  So, the idea is to do one poem per day.  Given travel and other stuff we'll see how it goes.  But be warned-- for the next month there's not likely to be much bad music, instead it'll be bad poetry. :)