I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score
would be 3 billion plus two on the
other side of the moon, and one plus God only knows what on this side.

 - Michael Collins, from "Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey"

Imagine making it all the way to the moon

and not being able to step foot on it. To wait
in the never-ending everything, orbiting

while Armstrong and Aldrin dug oversized footprints

into the dusty surface for the first time. He goes
unremembered among the trio. The entire world

tuned in to live vicariously through Neil

as he delivered a solitary sentence, grammatically flawed,
that would be canonized as the first words of man

reaching outside himself, into the out there, the honest unknown.

A culminating moment for a generation
of kids who stayed up on weeknights, holding flashlights

under their covers, pretending to move in zero gravity

and catch condensed space food in their mouths
as it floated from their hands. They'd look back to earth

and see how even tension could appear peaceful.

In Apollo, he drifts away from the landing. He rotates
further from earth than anyone in history. Alone,

he reaches the back porch of the moon, and is taken

into unrelenting darkness. Shadowed from Earth and Sun,
unreachable by radio for 48 minutes.

He learns new definitions of silence. It sounds

like the waiting room for death. He exhales
just to see the mist that gathers on the glass.

He speaks the names of his children aloud

and wonders if right and wrong mean anything
in a time and place that will never exist to anyone else.

With his head bowed, this is his confessional:

A vessel where he could speak without guilt. Where he could
fill a place without gravity with the stories of those held down by it.

How many walked out of their homes that night,

into a light breeze, catching the reflection of their faces
in wood-framed windows, just to look at the moon,

because it was different now? Attainable. How many walked out

to their streets, backyards, and rooftops without a word,
eyes wide, lit up and moon white because they wanted to feel

the night like he did? To stand, as still as the axis on which we spin. 

Michael Sarnowski earned his MFA from Vanderbilt University, where he was a recent recipient of The Academy
of American Poets Prize. His poetry has been published by *The Adirondack Review*, *The Honey Land Review*,
and Write Bloody Publishing.


Since the first two moon-walkers are household names to most, 48 Minutes came from the simple question, "Who was the third astronaut on the first successful moon landing?" Research then brought on questions about who Michael Collins was and what his was role in the mission. What stood out most was the unparalleled solitude of his solo orbit, the period of time on the far side of the moon without radio contact, in complete darkness, which I envisioned to be the most secluded moment any human could experience. This became the focus and jump-off point for the rest of the poem.



Copyright 2009