One side of our house was desert
And the other, the one facing east,
Was Eden itself.
I didn't know this until I bounced on a trampoline
And landed on the garage roof, me the unpaid astronaut,
Age nine, knees scuffed from a rough landing.
I looked about, stunned. A breeze lived
In the Sycamore and a single-engine airplane
Hung by a thread of exhaust in the darkening sky.
This was 1961. I asked, "Is this for us?" meaning the bushel of stars,
Pitched and pulsating their icy thorns. The moon was a tiger's tooth,
Hooked in a frightening way. I walked back
And forth on the roof, arms out for balance.
I saw my cat and dog, and they saw me, perhaps in awe,
Because they did lift their eyes to me.
And now it's 1999, the end of the millennium,
And it's certainly the end of my knees,
Those springs long gone. A latch of rust groans in each knee—
How they would love that payload of a taut trampoline.
I see these children, how they jump, fall back, and jump again.
If only I could sit on a roof, in summer,
If only I could watch a Shuttle—what lever does the commander push
To make a smile on his face, her face? I'm in the dark, literally,
Ice cubes rattling in my tea. The crickets sing in the weeds,
And soon the Shuttle, dime-bright, will lift off
And pull away. My friends, my suited up pilgrims,
What news will you bring?
—Gary Soto, 1997
"The Boy's First Flight" is copyrighted 1997 by Gary Soto and used by permission of the author. "The Boy's First Flight" was written for the NASA Art Program.
Home page image: "Wegbereiter Ikarus," print, woodblock on paper, by Wilhelm Geissler, 1966. (Courtesy NASM)