the is about watching the last of NASA’s shuttles, Atlantis, launch in 2011

the tree of life

The moon, stepping on the moon
as if it were a sidewalk or loam,
thick and hard to imagine, equally
as real as any other borrowed fact,

Any other secondhand experience.
how clear the surface of the moon
has become to us, Neil’s footprint
our footprint, and that was when

Imagination was wild, I hear, a
historical burst, new, real, far out
and our look moving strong, Kennedy
a voice to believe is there is there

In us all now. the fire and liquid hydrogen
walls of rockets buckling and groaning
well alive, the Whole World Watching
and then that space accessible, a

Push so far out, to the moon, to
give us comfort to a smaller distance.
still farther than previous gods can
go, to make it to the moon, and we

can all stick our heads out
earths atmosphere now.

So fill it up with satellites,
dense it with experiments
thick, pointed outwards pointed
inwards until we take it

For granted the ken extends
that far. then jump again. thanks
the force of the 60s, even if we’ve
come into a waiting time, even

If it means no effect now, there is
no helping getting used to good
Things or bad. Nowadays, a more pedestrian
patient alternative: the shuttle.

Less like a bomb, more like a plane,
something that can return. And far out
the International Space Station,
sharing like our mother taught us

A way to bring home to each heart
the possiblity of escaping the atmosphere.
so for years we dance around in space
together, so for years we grow space

Mint and run on the treadmill and
talk of microgravity bulging the
blood in our heads and how many have
made love in space we’ll never know.

And here sitting on a strand of
beach aross the Indian River from
Cape Canaveral, the water grey with
waiting clouds reflected, waiting for

The very last of the shuttles, the
Program it’s called, dying out at
the exact time as faith in it. family
and strangers saying It Was a

Bigger Deal Back Then, the Saturn V was
huge and these orbiters, don’t think
it’ll be big or anything, waiting
with millions on the TV news,

Countdown connected firing room
connected people connect the sense
of gaic right action connect the
dreams in the hammock and there goes

And there goes a light a light
a fire almost too bright to look
upon, Atlantis going up against
weather and mechanics, Atlantis

The last of the waiting ships going
up bright all of us believing, the
highways full, the campgrounds full,
the parks and pathways complete with

Watching seeming individual eyes.
Atlantis my father my mother brother sister
son and daughter going up, and the
fire from a small small arrow

14 miles away so bright almost impossible
to look upon. the sound broke out across
the water, we watched it come not knowing.
three heroes going up in a familiar finality

And the smoke. Three layers of cloud. One
low thin cloud, one high encompassing
Breadth of cloud, and a darker column
of reactive cloud following Atlantis

Arrow up. Nature formed the first two
layers over the course of all history and
the third immediate and distinct and
apparent in that same span still. grave

And fantastic one sixth machine and the
rest fire with a cloud following, a pillar
of boiling vapour with the weight of bodies,
the ladder of human and otherwise experience

Reaching at least that far, and climbing
farther, and disappearing into the
covering grey sky, leaving us all
alone with that dark column.

Gone into unexplainable void higher
than most of our bodies will ever go.

The Makonde of south-east Tanzania and
Northern Mozambique carve elaborate steles
of entwined figures supporting one another,
as if over time overlapping, as if through

Time in ebony, the heart of
a brighter tree, holding one another
up and passing on the wisdoms
of the ancestors below.

These carvings are called
The Tree of Life, knowing or maybe
not the presence of that phrase
Over the ages, but anyway there were

All the forms of people supported,
supporting, clouding out and
moving, dissolving the meanings
of words in hands holding feet holding

Hands, that was all I could think
of as the cloud following Atlantis
moved imperceptable out in the
wake of the arrow disappearing to

A further sky, another expected
moment pregnant with the dying
tradition. all I could think of was
that cloud and every body contained

In its soft movements, impossible to
track outwards through a thin cloud
and lost in a high deep bank,
the Tree of Life climbing up

And up and up as if it meant to
find heaven up there somewhere.

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