© 2008 -- 2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Challenger: An Elegy

“The world stopped when the Challenger exploded.”
A visitor’s note at the Challenger Web site

Nothing works. Neither day nor night.
All the stars disappear. Birds in mid flight
Fold their wings and fall, refusing to fly.
The sun sinks slowly then freezes in the sky.
The winds stand still. Fish die in the ocean.
The pendulum’s swing remains the only motion.

That night I saw Orion rising overhead and knew
That things exist beyond the meaning of the words we use.
Some things are only light, or sound, or pressure on the skin.
Some things inhabit space before the space where words begin.

Now all the words in all the books cannot inhabit space
Reserved for things that vanish from our lives without a trace.
The names we give we give to things we know can be recalled.
And words won’t salvage anything when you see the heavens fall.

Once Jupiter held up the stars for a longer night of love.
Jehovah stayed the sun with force for slaughter from above.
But never once has someone made a minute fail to pass
Or just by willing made the trilling air of a bird song last
Beyond its final note dissolved inside an evening wind.
Yet still the sky at night gives hope you’ll hear it once again.

goddess boat -- serpent
at the feet of Orion,
trailing the heavens
bodies without down-
link fall from the sky, and you,
leaping like a hare,
lift the hunter killed
by his love past my window.

gods and goddesses
tease the human isolate
with monstrous burning
while we raise new myths
from the scattered debris
of human yearning.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.


  1. Grandpa, that is truly a great poem. I recall vividly what the disaster meant to me in the telling of these words.

  2. You are brilliant!

  3. I love III. You sure do have a way with words Grandpa.

  4. I remember sitting in my sixth grade classroom watching the launch...and then the tragedy.

  5. "That night I saw Orion rising overhead and knew
    That things exist beyond the meaning of the words we use."

    A great moment captured, Grandpa.

  6. Beautiful.

    Got a little teary over the Challenger the other day...some video clips of the explosion were on a YouTube video I posted on Sunday.

  7. Wow, such great ability to weave with words! :) loved it.