I remember your mask, your helmet,
the grain of your face, the grin:
the newspaper unfolding your face,
the editors sulking, the odd sense
that you were the first of the new moons
crooning in space. I remember the podium
where they handed you flowers, the way
everything shrank in your shadow.
I closed my copy of Jules Verne
with a quiet snap. I resisted the gags
about green cheese. I pinned your smile
like a medal on the inside of my desk.
You had the oddest modesty:
In the playground, we ran around, calling
astronaut! as if the word
had been coined, as if the rouble
had taken over the world. We knew
nothing but orbit. We believed in spheres.
The flat atlases, filled with pink,
were left on the shelf in the store-room.
Night brightened with new scars
as if you had cut the constellations
with a scalpel. From that moment
we hunted the sky, astronomers.