When I was 18, I met a supernova.
She looked like a star then—
a constellation of combat boots and flannels,
a catchy laugh—
something you could snap your fingers to.
And I had a potted cactus,
which I introduced to her because
We’ll be together for a year.
Gotta start off right.
I remembered to check on the cactus,
squinting at it through pale 7 o’clock mornings,
before I stumbled off to class,
never turning on the lamp
because stars like to sleep in.
I slipped I love yous under the door,
and forgot her face until nightfall,
coming home to an unlocked door
and microwave popcorn,
welcomed by an extra-buttered how was your day?
There was a Wednesday night, though,
when the door was locked,
so I jangled my keys at the knob.
The door swung slowly,
revealing the vacuum of space inside.
The curtains were drawn;
the desk lamp burned like a tarnished sun.
But the star was there,
hanging just to the left.
My tongue dripped
with her name.
When I was small,
each dream I carved
from my crayon box of when-I-grow-ups
was tacked to the sky,
so numerous and shining,
my mother would look down
and swear she saw the stars.
But I know what real stars look like,
and I know what they feel like once dead,
when you try to shake them awake and,
when that fails,
try to bring them down
from where they hang in the sky.
The thing about stars
is that some try to erase themselves,
exploding so suddenly
no one can believe they’re gone,
and some dim,
smoldering in the wreckage of other stars
until they’re a whisper in a dark room,
too soft for astronomers to find them.