Melbourne, Florida, 2010
One witness heard the screeching
brakes, the screams,
saw it all. You could hear the unspeakable
taking shape between his words,
a grief that will surface again and again,
like a field of mushrooms,
the same and not the same, returning
each spring. He thought he saw a blanket
twisting beneath the wheels.
The swamp twenty feet below
and full of alligators—was there time
to think, or choose? Late Friday afternoon,
Sunday morning, empty town, a vagrant
newspaper blowing down the street.
Yellow tape. Blocks of intense sunshine,
shaded sidewalks. Asphalt that reflected nothing.
Desolation of the off-season
Space Coast, place of permanent off-season: boarded
up ice cream stands,
washed out roads—major hurricanes and the end
of Space Shuttle.
Cape Canaveral, name so lovely, launch
pad overgrown by weeds.
And in every crest
the big waves clutching darkness
like a bunch of dead flowers.
I wanted a weekend, wanted it like a
impulse to cross a train trestle with friends, eating an ice cream cone.
I wanted the waves, that
empty sound of eternity, a call
to oblivion disguised
as adventure. Cheap attraction
of the carnival barker.
Three years earlier the launch site visible
from our balcony twelve miles away. Enormous
Themis III streaked past, leaving a smoke signature.
It drifted a little, smudged,
disappeared into the watery blue
early evening sky.