why did the Challenger explode? asks my sister. we’re at Disneyland.
o-rings, says my father.
it was cold in florida, and the o-rings were brittle. the rubber was brittle and there was no seal. when the gas leaked, flames blew out the sides of the rocket boosters like crazed tufts of hair:
the whole world watched, and the announcer, in his calm leaden voice, called out elevation,
as one does when a rocket is launching. higher, higher–and then lower, as charred rubble fell back to earth
the craft an unexpected parabola, his voice a dead flatline
(was it professional? was it shock? was it helplessness?
what eats affect swiftest?)
it was cold. it was costing billions. it was safe to plunge ahead. the whole world was watching.
it was cold and the rubber was brittle.
it cost me my job, says my father. his satellite would not launch, without its Challenger.
when MH17 goes down in Ukraine, we talk about Iran Air
Iraq, says my father; Iran, i say, as does Google. huh, says my father. that cost me my job, says my father.
he’d been just out of college in 1986–an aerospace engineer working on missiles, like ours which sunk themselves into a plane.
i asked you, though, my sister says. i asked you if you’d ever worked on missiles on weapons and you said no, only satellites. you said no
(i don’t remember what he said back)
it’s cold in alabama at midnight, when my father is young and working there. in his time off he drives to the Smoky Mountains and watches the sun rise over them. then he drives back.
i once gave him a smashed coin from the space monument in Moscow.
from Disneyland, we bring my mother another.
it’s cold in my hand.