Christine Johnson-Duell

My Husband Explains Light Years to our Ten-Year-Old Daughter


He pours the last of the blueberries on breakfast yogurt,
a few more in her bowl than in his, and considers her question.

A unit of measure; not time, he says, but distance. He mentions
stars. (Like those in her eyes when she’s with him; those in my eyes
and his, in some distant past, it seems, though the light’s still steady.)

He says it’s the way light travels, which is to say: velocity (something
we know about; having lived this decade, tracked light’s orbit
back to the start, watched each turn alter the image).

And what will remain?

For me, the bits of kitchen conversation that floated me awake. For him,
those lopsided blueberry portions, perhaps. For her? Who knows

what will burn away, what will remain, light years, of course, from now.



“My Husband Explains Light Years to our Ten-Year-Old Daughter ” first appeared in Poet Lore..


Christine Johnson-Duell’s work has appeared in CALYX, Poet Lore, Alimentum, Cranky (poems) and The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, Drash, and Parent Map (prose). She was awarded a Hedgebrook residency in 2007, was a semi-finalist for the “Discovery”/The Nation award in 1996, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington. Johnson-Duell lives in Seattle with her husband and daughter.

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