Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Earth Appears Fragile Above All Else

     Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, I read Carrying the Fire, Michael Collins's compelling, funny, honest account of his astronaut training and experiences aboard both the Gemini 10 and historic Apollo 11 space flights.  He had no ghostwriter; every word is his own.  Here are some excerpts.  I put them in verse (and added titles) because they just seemed like poetry to me.  
    Hope he doesn't mind.

Only One Word

If I could use only one word to describe the earth as seen from the moon
I would ignore both its size and its color
and search for a more elemental quality, that of
The earth appears
above all else.
I don't know why but it does.
As we walk its surface, it seems solid and substantial enough,
almost infinite 
as it extends flatly in all directions.
But from space
there is no hint of raggedness to it;
smooth as a billiard ball,
it seems delicately poised 
in its circular journey around the sun,
and above all
it seems

Carrying the Fire

I have been places and done things you simply would not believe, 
I feel like saying;
I have dangled from a cord a hundred miles up;
I have seen the earth eclipsed by the moon, and enjoyed it.
I have seen the sun's true light, unfiltered by any planet's atmosphere.
I have seen the ultimate black of infinity in a stillness undisturbed 
   by any human being.
I have been pierced by cosmic rays on their endless journey from God's place
   to the limits of the universe,
   perhaps there to circle back on themselves
   and on my descendants.  
I have no intention of spending the rest of my life looking backward
   I do have this secret, 
   this precious thing,
   that I will always carry with me.

What Any Pilot Knows Is the Most Useless Measurement

any pilot knows
from ready-room fable 
or bitter experience that
the length of the runway behind him is the most useless measurement he can take;
it's what's up ahead that matters.
We know we cannot dwell 
on those good things that have already happened,
but must keep our minds one step ahead, 
especially now,

In Memoriam: 
June 16, 1961-November 16, 2002
His humor, courage and character are indelible, 
like footprints on the moon.