“How Many Times the Heroic,” by Christopher Raley

How many times the heroic have gone down this road
by the same swamp of flat-tufted green and spiking palm,
under the same grave yard sky where thunderheads cast their menace,
to the same rockets, those beasts of a single rage, rockets.

Hear their eruption and feel you tremble.
How to ride on thundering fear to severe stillness?
There is no mistaking the child’s will in this,
for why have we gone if not wonder?

How many times the heroic have died in the blue beyond,
held up and suffocated in their perch,
pushed up and obliterated in the form of Y.
Victorious pontificate peace on the efforts of the dead,
but is not the hand of God a terrible mischief?

See its motion and feel you humble
like the minds of ancients who first heard them babble.
There’s no mistaking the child’s fear in this,
for why have we gone if not pride?

How many times the heroic have dreamed off this road
where once there was no road at all,
where a man’s leather boot first broached a world
of flat and vulnerable, moist and alien horizon.
He saw no familiar of sharp mountains and dusty plains,
felt no weight of throne and icon comfort.
He spoke to a world whose voice he could not hear,
this slave of the stretched finger rule,
and called it for a possession.

Hear the words and feel you disdain
the proclamations of our former greatness.
There’s no mistaking the fall of the child.
He rises above his father with a steel body and a furnace mind,
sparks from which the stars themselves shine no equal.

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