Paula Persoleo

How We Were, How We Are

“…we are made of star stuff and so we are glimpsing at our origin.”
—Richard Ellis, astronomer

We have been looking in the wrong places.
The answers are not beneath our feet, not
in the stones or bones or broken pottery

but above, beyond human sight in cold black
holes. Once we were opaque; once we were
translucent. We were helium and hydrogen

radiating heat and energy, loose protons
colliding with protons until we
collapsed into stars. So many stars

finding each other, settling in constellations
across the universe. Our orbits danced
galaxies; our plasma exploded heliospheres.

We are born to burn ourselves out.
The next stars will pluck what we discard,
reforming pieces of our former selves into

new nebulae. This is how we end:
beautiful bursts of soundwaves and debris
waiting for ripples of fusion, renewal.



Paula Persoleo is a 2011 graduate of Stony Brook’s MFA program in Southampton, NY. Some of the poets she worked with include Julie Sheehan, Thomas Lux, and Michelle Whittaker. Her work has appeared in Gordon Square Review, Philadelphia Stories, Panoply, Into the Void, and SWWIM. She is an adjunct at the University of Delaware and lives in Wilmington with her husband.