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.”

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