inner space, or: ripping off my own mask

when my pastor first told me all the good kids go to heaven
for eternity, it was enough to make little seven-year-old me
take a serious look at atheism.

 

it’s not that i’m skeptical of paradise and it’s not
that i’m against what jesus stood for. it’s like —
i tried to imagine eternity and it felt like cramming elephants
into my skull, like my eyes were gonna pop out and roll away across those
polished shoe-scuffed hardwood floors.

 

infinity scared the shit out of me and it still kind of does.
boundless is horrifying; endless is just too goddamn much. i can’t group infinity
into neat little clusters of three or five and i can’t fit
its scientific notation into my pocket and i’m only human,
what do you expect of me? i’m terrified of that which
i’ll never understand.

 

i used to think outer space was a box —
that one day someone would announce
the astronauts had reached the end of the universe,
white gloves stark and useless against black, finite
walls.

 

i wanted the stars to be countable so i could reach the end of my
ten fingers and start over again and over again and over again,
even if it took me until i died or longer, until i touched
that final twinkle.

 

i was fourteen when i saw the first glimmer inside me,
cut my hair pixie-short after anne hathaway in a magazine and
looked in the mirror, touched my fringe and learned 
the true curve of a smile.

 

i hung the first stars, or rather discovered them —
sending tentative spaceships deep into my mind
until they bumped the burning glow and reported:
“houston, we’ve got light.” and i charted them carefully,
with pride. hey, houston, we’ve found something,
hey, houston, look, look what i wrote! i’m proud of it.
holy shit, holy shit, i’m proud of it.
hey, houston, i think i’m gay. hey, houston,
i like the skin i’m wearing even when it’s
riddled with zits — i’ve got constellations at even
my most basic levels, isn’t that neat? hey, houston, i’ve got talents.
hey, houston, i’ve got friends. hey, houston,
i’m brave. hey, houston, i’m strong and i’m powerful
and i love people and i love this sunrise and i

 

love myself.

 

(tell the world — this is going to change history.)

 

whole goddamn universes sparkling where i hadn’t seen them before,
bathtubs overflowing with stardust, basins of darkness
to catch the light — so much of it everywhere, in sudden illumination —
so many stars, too many to count.

 

infinity still scares the shit out of me, okay.
you’ll never find me volunteering for a day trip to mars
and i’m not going to be one of those mathematicians
who spends their life trying to wrestle a sideways eight
into submission. but i can coexist with it.
i’ve got fucking eternity inside of me,
a neverend of boundless and bounteous space,
jumbled with stars, pockmarked with planets,
so much to wonder at and so much to respect —
and i love that, jesus.
i really do.

 

i found heaven the day i let myself realize
i’ve got black holes, yeah —
but shit, man, i’ve got stars.

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