The astronomy professor’s son sits wide-eyed
in the front row of chairs of the vast auditorium.
His father has just bellowed to the class,
“You are all made of the stuff in stars!
This soda can is made of stars!
We are having this conversation—“
(he emphasized the end of the word for the effect)
“due to the stuff from stars!”
The boy peers down at his small body,
stretches out his pale hands before his eyes,
wonders why his skin does not shimmer or
sparkle like those tiny pinpoints of light.
He thinks of the time his mother sat with him
in the damp grass after dusk, pointing up to
the sky, her finger a fleshy classroom pointer;
he remembers her whisper, like silk,
“Each star is the tip of God’s needle,
poked through a giiiant—“
(she spoke to him in childish sing-song)
“black ream of construction paper.”
He snaps back to reality in the front row.
A diagram is projected onto the screen,
showing the sizes of various stars;
he hears his father, the professor,
say that some are just as big as the sun,
enormous balls of fire that burn, burn, burn,
burn, until finally they’re defused like
the blowing out of a red-tipped match,
showering their remnants onto the beckoning
soil of the earth, becoming us, becoming this classroom,
becoming the chair in which he was seated,
becoming the small grooves in his father’s ring finger
where a small gold band used to sit.