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Apollo 13

by Oonah V. Joslin

56 hours and headed for the Moon,
Swigert’s voice, almost too calm, announced:
Houston we’ve had a problem.
A normal procedure left Apollo 13 crippled
and twisting in space and, for six nail-biting days,
we all looked up and prayed
as if we could pray you back to Earth.

We were afraid you would asphyxiate:
afraid you’d skip like a skimming stone,
Ping off Earth’s atmosphere and disappear
forever into the blackness
that was ever part of who we are:
the unknown, the quality of fear itself.

Oh, we could hardly breathe for fear and prayer and looking up.
But you were there,
and we were here,
and all seemed hopeless.

It was a cold, cold odyssey for you.
That decision to use a Lunar Orbit Rendezvous
saved your lives.
An unscheduled date with Aquarius
brought you back
to our watery world
to splash-land
and, in the warm sunshine, live another day.

And I know in my mind,
it was science sent you,
and science brought you back,
science and skill and calm commitment
to a common cause.
But what of those prayers
that went so far beyond all barriers
of languages and faiths?
That so much went so right
after such disaster, must surely give us pause.

Copyright © 2020 by Oonah V. Joslin

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