From six to sixteen, I scoured the balloons.
I knew the one he rode—Challenger.
My parents took 10,000 pictures. All the same.
And I was dying, Richard, of the mundane
at the center of profundity. I tried seeing
the opposite, but when you’re ten,
family is an inferno. I needed answers
about drifting the heavens, having no fear,
just the wind mussing our horse-mane hair
as you broke record after record, and I couldn’t
reach you to ask the secret of your success.
Even now, I imagine you flying away on a dirigible,
a steampunk hero, goggles on, guns blazing,
yelling over your shoulder for me to keep up.
“I’ve got a private island,” you say, in case
things turn rough, “a helicopter on the roof.”
Did you know, every poem is a spaceship?
And it’s good to be in touch with the tactile,
but sometimes you need lift and separation,
which is, I think, why I rose in my seat
in the waiting room, the doctor’s blood price
heavy upon me, as I sorted the pieces of a purple
balloon for the Fiesta’s jigsaw puzzle.
Piecing the past together, here, a few broken pieces
at a time, Sir Richard. Once, I watched
you rappel down your space station
in New Mexico, your children by your side.
I remember, I continued to shout: “Take me with you!”
That time, you were on television and couldn’t
hear me. Your children grinned like satisfied
wolves at their father, the head of the first
space dynasty in the world. But I have
to tell you, Richard, like an old cat, my legs
no longer work right. I fear this may be it.
Will your weightless ship pause for me?
Will your starlit arms cast my soul
like a constellation, into space?
Copyright © 2019 Ilyse Kusnetz
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.