i. stars get it wrong, of course–they assume too much phosphorus and not enough fear of death, pulsar instead of pulse. They leave out uncertainty, not knowing what it was above the subatomic level; the softer shades of melancholy and the gentler warmths. But they get the shape right, the brighthot of blood. They get that right too.
ii. all their metaphors are for burning, and they ascribe to soft tongues a taste for sulfur, fingers at the ends of spiral arms. They drink liquid helium from a cracked Dewar flask and wonder aloud if humanity is looking up, looking back.
(how cold they must be, the stars’ carbon cousins–wet and cold, and can humanity do arithmetic in parallax, do you think, counting parsecs between two stars in inexorable collision?
it’s called a kiss, cygnus X-1 says quietly. they call it a kiss.)
iii. they say when you feel your child’s protoplanetary disc first differentiate, you will cry tears of methane.
iv. it’s called the Kindling, when the faint sheen of protostellar mass catches alight, and burns with all the brightness of adulthood. Protostars of thirteen stand around bathroom mirrors, examining their helium layer for bright spots, looking for stray molecular clouds in their nail beds. All of them are in love with the astrophysics teacher, whose stellar wind sends flickers of light across the meteor fields.
late at night (but what is night to a star?) they trace the spiral arms of their evolving galaxies, and dream dry dreams of neutron star collisions hotter than blue hypergiants.
v. we are made of starstuff, says a man, craning his thread-slender neck, looking up into the abyss of wind and fire of the universe.
oh, breathes a star, squinting down at the infinitesimal speck of rock, turning and turning in the vastness of space. oh.
we didn’t have a name for us, before.