Astronomy Lessons

I.
If you say my grandmother’s name a certain way,
It means “grow a star”.
And grow them she did:
When they came to her with guns on their backs
And shaking desperation in their chests, she said,
“Come, child.
“Let me teach you the language of our people.”

I did not understand when she mentioned how some met their end
The way stars often do–
In a supernova of light.
But when she told me about how others became red giants
And raised stars of their own,
I knew what she meant.
After all, she’s one of them.

Then she tells me my mother is a sun
While I am still just pinprick;
Almost chiding, she reminds me to not be afraid of burning too brightly
And to be wary of others’ gravity.
It’s easy to be sucked in.
And while things in orbit still move,
They never really get anywhere.
She tells me I was never made to be
Somebody else’s moon.
But it is still so hard to resist
The black hole pull of pupils,
Swallowing light and me and
Everything else.

II.
It takes eight minutes for light from the sun to reach the earth.
If the sun disappeared, we would still have eight minutes of daylight:
Enough time to finish that last paragraph
Or apologize
Or brush your teeth.

If my mom disappeared, I know
Her residual light would last me a lifetime.
Some types of warmth never leave you.

III.
They say “the bigger the star, the shorter it’s life.”

Maybe that’s why my grandmother’s first son did not live to see his thirtieth birthday.
He burned bright and short,
Spinning masterpieces like spiders spin their homes-
When stars die, their remains expand outward infinitely
To make new stars.
He burned out before I flickered into existence, but they tell me
I have his hands.
Once, my grandmother took my fingers in hers, chuckled, said
“Four people and 4800 stars are born every second
Out of the debris of old stars.
There is always new light somewhere.”

Then she told me I am turning into a lizard,
And that I should moisturize more.
I told her that stars don’t moisturize, and all she said back was,
“It’s because many of them don’t know how to make themselves soft.
“Their light is not tender.
“Make sure yours is.”

IV.
I feel small sometimes, but then again
So are stars from a distance.
Even far away, I can still be warm enough for things to grow.
I know this because I grew up playing under the blanket-heavy, baking-oven luminescence
That travelled 92.38 million miles to turn my mahogany hair almost birch-blonde for a summer–
I looked ridiculous.
But I swear my head felt lighter.

V.
If you say my nickname a certain way,
It means “star stuff”.
And maybe that’s why my grandmother used to tell me
I was earthborn for reasons only the biggest red giant knew.
She’d say, “Earthbound Star,
“Don’t forget the constellations you make here.
“They all matter when you’re up there, too.”

Static Electricity

This is one of those poems that gets written really fast with no editing. Some of them work, most of them don’t– for better or worse, this one’s published.


I.
When it gets to this time of winter, everything is dry
And every time I lean against a wall
My hair sticks to it
Because the static is everywhere everywhere everywhere
When I pull my sweaters off I see a bajillion sparks
Pop pop popping against my cheeks
Sometimes I wonder if this is what the Big Bang felt like
Sometimes I imagine if this is what being kissed by stars feels like
But mostly I cringe
I do that a lot when gets to this time of year
Another thing I do is punch:
I start punching everything before I touch it
Because getting shocked is easier to deal with when it’s against your fist
Instead of your fingertips
I am not joking–
I punch the light switch
Punch the keyboard
Punch my toothbrush
Punch doors before opening them
But I can’t punch people
Obviously
So every time I have to shake hands
Or take something from someone
Or just touch in general
I am cringing cringing cringing to the alarms in my head
There are some things you just can’t avoid
Or protect yourself against

II.
It’s always easier to go at things with your fists
Instead of your fingertips
Avoid avoid avoid
When I was younger I would have to leave the room
Until after the toast was done
Because the toaster was far too startling
Avoid avoid avoid
Nowadays I hate being somewhere with balloons
If I have to stay with them I will cringe
And curl away from the potential loud
Until I am nothing but human-sized fist
Avoid avoid avoid
When I was younger I would make friendships without ever unclenching
Because my hands were far too afraid of the electricity of connection
Maybe that’s why I hit so many people in the third grade

III.
They say there’s a reason your heart is the size of your fist
You need to fight with it
But I have spent enough time punching
To know I would rather offer my heart as an outstretched palm
Everything is more startling that way
But I want to feel this life with my fingers instead of my knuckles
The joy pop pop popping against my cheeks
The shocks gathering at my fingertips like traumas
There are some things you just can’t avoid
Or protect yourself against
Like handshakes in the middle of winter
But I will take your hand
And you will take mine
Despite the shock
Despite the ache
(Despite that I feel like a lizard because it’s the middle of winter and I don’t moisturize)
I want to feel the press of your fingers and be reminded
That there will always be soft among the jolt
There will always be things I will not have to punch
Things I will not be afraid to touch
Things I will not have to avoid
And I will say to myself
Feel
Feel
Feel.

Weekly Weather Forecast for December 29th to January 4th

MONDAY: The falling snow will remind you of the passing of days. Be careful as you shovel your driveway– sometimes we clear memories away much too quickly.
TUESDAY: Partially cloudy, with a 30% chance of sudden longing. It is unclear for what or whom.
WEDNESDAY: Something will burn. It will leave you light, or ash. Maybe both.
THURSDAY: You’ll carry yesterday’s heat with you.
FRIDAY: It’s cold. Be warm. Hover near chilly people.
SATURDAY: You will sit down. Then you will tell yourself it is too early for exhaustion.
SUNDAY: There is a gentleness in endurance. There is a ferocity too. Remember there is little good in a half-lit life.

Large Talk

I do not enjoy small talk.
Comments on how much snow is on the ground
Only makes me want to fall to the ground in boredom
Don’t ask me how my day is going
I don’t want to ask you how your job is

If anything, share a fact about yourself
Me, I somersault into pools a lot
Which means I get disoriented easily
Maybe it’s because I’m always trying to somersault into people

So let’s forgo wading into pleasantries
And dive into the deep end together
Swim in our pasts
Then come up gasping for air
Wondering if we’ll ever touch the bottom
We’ll brave the ripples and tsunamis alike
Just let me get my pool noodles
And empathy first

Oh, and if you’re scared of swimming, that’s okay
We can start small:
You can tell me about the bruises on your thigh
And explain how you’re convinced the corners of desks are out to get you
I’ll chuckle along,
Then ask you why you ever gave up art
Because I know you’d much rather have bruises from
Bumping into your easel
While painting candlelight in the dark

Or, you could describe the person renting the space above your heart
Even though you told them beforehand that
“The plumbing is fickle,
“The AC is broken,
“And there’s dust
“And daydreams lying all over the place”
Tell me about how they smiled at your ramblings,
Then hung cut-out stars from the rafters
Saying that they can’t wait
To start singing along to your heartbeat

Tell me about the panic button in your back pocket
And the time your surgeon hands shook
Speaking of surgeons,
Did you know they write the word ‘no’ in capital letters
On the leg they’re not supposed to amputate?
It just goes to show that everyone has made some pretty big mistakes
So forgive yourself for the broken things

Tell me about what is leaking into your chest
Through the holes you tried to patch up with bubble gum and awkward laughter
Tell me about that one time the dams broke
And how your friends showed up at your doorstep in rain boots
Offering buckets and industrial-strength compassion
Then tell me about monsoon season,
And how you rode your umbrella door-to-door,
Trying to return the favor

Maybe you could mention the marks on your arms
And explain how the cat wasn’t responsible
And that it’s been months since you last drew that cello bow across your strings
Thinking maybe the music would stop the earthquake in your bones
After you finish, I will tell you
There is nothing wrong with having mountain ridges on your skin
They say mountains are caused by the shifting of tectonic plates-
Friend, you may be made of fault lines,
But so am I.
And so is everyone else.

I guess what I’m trying to say is
Don’t be afraid of the burdensome:
Tell me about the growing pains, the phantom pains,
The heaviness you carry within you
Because you do not know a place to set it down
Show me the open graves in your tombstone mind,
The battlefield inside of you where bodies fell,
How the cannons sounded when they broke open the sky

I know some days, it feels like the bloodshed never ended
So I’ll ask you to tell me about the healing; the rebuilding;
The things that came after the war.

I want to know about the way the sunlight followed you,
Instead of the other way around
I want to know about your holy lightning storms
And the chalk-white ashes they left behind
And the way you sang gospel in the dark
When the power was out

See,
You have so much depth to you.
It would have been a shame
To just skim over the surface.