Negative Return (a poem about a Space Shuttle launch and/or a breakup)


Well, it’s Global Poetry Writing Month again. I can’t promise to blog a poem every day, but I have a few I prepared earlier. Here’s one called Negative Return, which I wrote in 2015 in order to have an excuse to wear my flight suit on stage. It’s about a Space Shuttle launch, or a breakup, or a breakup in which the person breaking up with you is leaving in a Space Shuttle (my preferred way of breaking up with someone.) It was inspired by something a tour guide at Kennedy Space Center said, which I happened to record audio of.

This particular performance is from the open mic on the 2018 JoCo Cruise, even though on the JoCo Cruise, no excuse is needed to wear a flight suit at any time.

I’ve performed it a few times in Vienna, with slightly different wording, though I’d never actually posted about it here before. Here’s a playlist of the recorded versions of it.

Immediately before me at the open mic, Joey Marianer, who follows me around singing everything I say, sang my parody of Jonathan Coulton’s ‘Glasses’:

As I’ve previously mentioned, he’d sung it before on YouTube, but I think this live performance was even better.

I’m still processing, uploading, and getting the performers’ permission to post my video from the rest of the open mic.

I recommend watching the video if you can rather than just reading, as there are some added sound effects, but here are the words to Negative Return:

First you see it, then you hear it, then you feel it.

First you see it.
The shuttle slipping up into the sky,
The subtle disconnection in her eye.
The blooming smoke that seems it’s painted on,
The lustful fire you can’t believe is gone.

Then you hear it.
The solid rocket booster firing noise
The falling out of love that’s in her voice.
A sound so loud it can destroy its very source
The sound suppression system dissipates the force.
Unsound depression wisdom yells it back to her,
Resounding hate-you-toos destroying everything you were.

Then you feel it.
The shockwave that can shake your every cell.
The rocketing heartache you’ll never dispel.
Explosive blast of air across the water from the pad
She knows you’re stuck down there, weighed down with everything you had,
Feeling all the blame in lover’s rush to be set free
Searing in the flame trench in the crush of gravity.

You see her thrust toward nothingness as shuttle engines burn.
You hear the launch controllers saying “Negative return.”
You feel your inner hollowness do nothing else but yearn.

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