Meeting An Astronaut

Eileen O'Toole

(for Captain James Lovell)

It must be luck we say
Glancing at the even rows of mini-muffins

At the napkins fanned next to stir sticks
We are early to the corporate event

And my boss has just spotted an astronaut
So we hover near the breakfast buffet

Wait as the pull of warm croissants
Draws him to us

There is so much to understand about space
And it's rare to have an astronaut to yourself

I know there must be one question
I want to ask

But my mind has gone to zero gravity
And my thoughts have become absorbed

With what they look like weightless
Even the boring ones are turning somersaults

Lost in the crush of a helium high
While I stare blankly at the astronaut

There is a real life astronaut
In front of you

This thought is a yo-yo between my eyes
A bobbing distraction

As he gestures to show how he sat
Folded for fourteen days

During the Gemini 7 mission
I have a passing thought of canned goods

How well they store
He angles a sheet of paper

To underscore the degree of precision required
By the Apollo 13 re-entry plan

I see super balls bouncing off ceilings, walls
Think of a needle threading stars

He holds his arm out like a hitchhiker
Says in the shadow of the moon

He could close one eye and with just his thumb
Remove the earth from the night sky

Says he realized then how everything 
That meant anything to him was there on that 

Cloud-swaddled spot
And I am struck with the strongest desire

To touch his arm, the upper length of it
To feel its molecules beneath my fingertips

To touch it again and again - to ask
Where have you been?

Where have you been?