It’s late November 1982, probably Thanksgiving,
but maybe the weekend before,
and Dad has taken us out to the desert
to fire off my brother’s rocket.
The rain’s coming soon,
and the clouds somersault above us.
It’s hard to tell how high they are
without the reference of a plane or a skyscraper.
They could be giants, 20,000 feet
above us or only 100 feet up.
Mark fires off his rocket,
and it goes through a couple of model rocket stages,
and then just about when it’s going to burst
into the final explosion
that pushes out the parachute,
it’s sucked up into the cloud.
The wind’s going too hard,
so we don’t hear the popping last explosion,
the final stage of the engine’s life,
but we stare at the cloud’s belly
— waiting for the toy to come out the bottom.
The wind bullies the clouds
for a good five minutes before we give up,
me caught in a wish
that I had been the one who’d been pulled up
and out of this world
into the endless dark gray of midday purgatory.