Elegy for Sisyphus [Today's News Poem, February 10, 2012]
in memoriam, Roger Boisjoly
He rolled boulders off his lawn for hours
every day until his muscles were chained
to exhaustion, until sleep stayed precariously
balanced in his grasp instead of falling
downhill like a punishment for his failure.
"We were talking to the right people," he said, but
seven astronauts were dead, their faces replayed
nonstop on news channels as the shuttle exploded
every time he closed his eyes. Cancer
finally killed what guilt tried to crush: a good man
shouldering the weight of his own impotence.
For almost thirty years he pushed
other engineers to do more, say more, to swear
on words binding as the Styx, where he now waits
quietly for the ferryman to row him across, to a field
green as a Florida summer, with no stones in sight.
"The NASA officials on a conference call didn't want to hear it. The shuttle program managers were desperate to prove they could launch reliably. When do you want me to launch, one of them said, next April? A year later, Boisjoly suffered from disabling headaches. He moved boulders off his lawn all day so he'd be exhausted enough to sleep at night. And he huddled in the corner of a couch, thin and tearful, his arms folded tight, ready to speak out."
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