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Fireflies, Col. Glenn calls them—

banging the capsule’s wall to prove

their movement. This

will be the gesture Hollywood


claims as history—how space

dazzles even the seasoned airman,

maddens like Titania’s touch.

The movie version sees


what he sees: Florida yawn, Delta yawp,

a sunrise inside every hour,

lightning over the Indian Ocean.

Yet the operatic soundtrack, paced


in gilded silence, is not what he hears.

Wonder-ese is not the language

he speaks. For this,

we turn to the transcript. Pilot


to Cap Com; Cap Com to Pilot.

This is Friendship 7, going to manual.

Ah, Roger, Friendship 7.

Pilot, Texas Cap Com, Cape Canaveral.


Cap Coms chiming in from Canary,

Canton, Hawaii, Zanzibar, India,

Woomera: every visual check

on the gyros, inverter temp,


every correction to pitch and yaw,

fuel, oxygen, Ah, Roger, Ah, Over.

Say again your instructions please.

Over. Do you read? Standby.


You can be honest. This

is Godspeed-less, workaday chatter.

This is not what you’d save if

the National Archives were in flames.


You’d grab those proclamations.

You would cart the Magna.

You’d roll up the Constitution

like a favorite dorm-room Van Gogh,


and run. But I’ve got this one.

Because in these pages

my grandfather lives forever—

a Navy captain charged


with Glenn’s vitals, stretching

his stethoscope across 162 miles

and 18 tracking stations.

I hear him in each pressure check.


I see him biting his lip,

leaning toward a bank of dials

while the retropackage breaks, burns.

No one knows if the heat shield


will hold. Captain Pruett

goes unnamed. This

is how history claims us: 

not in the gesture of one but


in the conversation of many,

the talk that gets the job done.

We climb into the syrup-can capsule

to circle the Earth three times.


The miraculous swarm, we realize,

is condensation. The light 

will wink at us,

flake and ice of our own breath

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