The 2River View 25.3 (Spring 2021)

Diane Thiel

Astronaut Training

I ate the applesauce. — John Glenn, 1962

Nothing really prepares you,
though there are plenty of books on what to expect,
because on some level you are not in control.
The vomit comet gives you a clue
that things will be different.
The centrifuge spins you around faster and faster,
changing gravity.

Much of the preparation is in the mind,
how to handle the unexpected,
and there is always the underlying fear
that you might burn up on re-entry.
No matter what, nothing really prepares you.
The simplest of actions will become an event,
the small step, the first swallow of applesauce.
Thinking—Houston, we have a problem.
He didn’t eat the applesauce.

Sixteen sunrises and sunsets pass
while others experience one night.
You might sleep hanging from the ceiling
and wish for earplugs so the rocket burns
don’t wake you, but it is also clear
that out here—in zero gravity,
where the whole picture comes into focus,
your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.

Diane Thiel has published ten books of poetry and nonfiction, and Questions from Outer Space is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. Thiel is a Professor at the University of New Mexico, and her awards include PEN, NEA and Fulbright Awards.

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