To my father,
Who I have never met.
In a grade school library,
I discovered myself
in a book series dedicated to astronomical concepts and objects;
the rings of saturn,
the dead volcanoes of mars,
how stars are formed,
But the one that really captured me
was about Halley's comet.
Like all comets,
It’s a happy accident.
and would have remained an unremarkable object
if not disturbed from its rest at the edge of our solar system
in precisely the right way
so that every 76 years,
we get to see it firework its way into our star,
emerge few days later unscathed
and then vanish for another 3 generations.
Legend born of coincidence
Insists that its appearance meant something special -
It was there for the invasion of Hungary,
the death of king harold of england,
it may have even been the star of the nativity,
...But unless I’m still alive in 2061,
I’ll never get to see it except in pictures,
Because the last time it showed up
was the year I was born,
January of that year,
my mother came home
crying that the sky was falling,
That the world was ending.
Her father let her be,
assuming she, like the rest of the nation,
was mourning Challenger
Whose mission to study halley's comet from space
Had ended earlier that day in disaster.
Back in her room,
She sorted through the wreckage of a pregnancy test,
And found me in the debris.
To my biological father, who I will never see
even in pictures,
People often make the mistake of thinking shooting stars are comets
When they’re actually meteors.
The differences between them
Is that a comet shines for months at a time
thanks to the dusty ice it’s collected along its journey.
A meteor is just a chunk of rock and iron
only memorable for the fire it produces for a few seconds
when it crashes through our atmosphere
Or the damage it leaves if it manages to make landfall.
But the interesting thing about meteors
is that even though they can be tools of extinction,
We now believe that the seeds of life on earth
may have rode in on one,
A love letter flung from some disaster
Half a galaxy away.
When you took my mothers virginity
the way an asteroid took the dinosaurs,
did you blame gravity?
Was her mass just in your path at the wrong moment,
and you didn’t know how to respond
but with collision and violence?
9 months later,
she gave me up for adoption,
flung me to the far corners of her universe,
afraid I too would be a crater-maker.
But after a few years of wandering around the word “son”,
I decided to try to find her,
I’m not sure why,
It just felt like some unseen force was pulling me back.
We’re friends now.
And I think she finally believes
that Halley’s appearance in 1986
Predicted more good than evil.
To my mother’s rapist,
wherever you may be,
I spent a long time wondering if I should come after you,
Only to realize that following an asteroid
Would requiring burning up alongside of it.
I’m just gonna try to shine long and bright enough to outlive you,
To eclipse you,
To ensure no one ever again gets us confused,
Living every day to prove that, unlike you,
I don’t have to rely on violence to make an impact,
That I am not defined by the disaster that caused my existence,
That the difference between a comet and an asteroid
isn’t just in their trajectory,
it’s what they’re made of.
And maybe, if I’m lucky,
somewhere between your great burn out
and your hole in the ground,
You’ll catch a glimpse of me in the sky
And regret the day you decided
A moment’s explosion
Was worth never knowing your son.
Because even though I won’t come after you,
I know enough about the universe
to tell you that
things have a way, eventually,
of coming back around.
from Growing Up, Not Old
released June 30, 2016
Words by Houston Hughes
Music & arrangement by Skyler Greene
Additional recording by Skyler Greene
all rights reserved