What a way to come home,

To return from the serenity of space.

Astronaut action figures crammed into a tin can,

Smell of sweat in the air,

Flames flaring around the hatch,

Gravity grabbing at your ass

From below, pulling you home,

Zombie hands

Dragging you down

Into the ground

Faster than the speed of sound

As black turns slowly to blue and –

With a cracked-twig snap the parachute blooms

Above you – a beautiful rose of rope

And snow-white cloth, lowering you

To the saffron-hued Steppes far below,

And now falling through a halo of helicopters,

Swapping nervous “We made it this far!”

Smiles with your fire-riding friends

Before the deafening bang of the braking

Rockets – scheduled but still a sphincter-

Tightening surprise – heralds your return

To Terra Firma –

The SLAM! into the ground is like

A tsunami of pain, a sickening ripple

Of “Oompff!” rolling up through

Your body from below, shaking your

Micro-gravity-thinned twiggy bones

Like sticks in a paper bag before you sag

Sideways, straps cutting into your heaving

Chest like cheese-wires –

A blinding burst of blue above!

And you look up, blinking, into

A tiny circle of sky, white clouds

Drifting by, drifting in and out of view,

A miniature Earth right there above your head

Until strangers’ faces loom over you,

Blotting out the heavens with their

Grins, their teary eyes singing

“”You’re back! Welcome home!” –

Hauled out of your padded couch,

Manhandled down the capsule’s charred

Side, boots slipping and skidding on the flakes

Of paint the dragon breath of re-entry

Burned away before you’re carried away

And dropped onto what looks suspiciously

Like a cheap camping chair,

Barely strong enough to take the weight

Of your sweat-stained suit and all the expectations

Piled upon you before you fled,

Before you put your helmet on and left

The Earth and all its woes behind.

You were gone just for a while,

But long enough to know that the saying is true,

Home is where the heart is – and your heart

Isn’t here any more, beneath the clouds,

Beneath the sky; it’s up there, above all this,

Above the chaos of Kardashians and clowns,

Above the lying politicians and bloodstained ground…

Up there – in that maze of pressurised tubes

And brightly-coloured flying robot cubes;

Where laptops cling like bats to every ceiling,

Wall and floor and dawn breaks a dozen times a day;

Where gravity is just a word,

And shooting stars fall beneath your feet,

That’s where you should be –

“I know, it’s good to be home”, a woman smiles,

Kneeling down by your side,

Thinking she knows why you’re crying

As you gaze past her face at the sky…

© Stuart Atkinson 2012

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