Wednesday, May 2, 2018

"Sparking oxygen" by James Frederick William Rowe

"Astronaut" Ink & Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Sparking oxygen
We didn't have any time
To feel or to scream

-- James Frederick William Rowe

Poet’s Notes:  On January 27, 1967, fed by the pure oxygen environment, an electrical fire in the Apollo 1 spacecraft killed Astronauts Roger Chaffee, Edward H. White, and Gus Grissom. They were burned alive in seconds and became the first American space program fatalities.  

Given the brevity of the event, I thought a haiku a suitable medium.  Its brevity further serves to evoke the shocking intensity of the fire.  This poem was inspired by this event, but I've taken some liberties, perhaps out of mercy to their memory. In reality, it appears they probably did feel some pain.  They were able to communicate the existence of a fire to control crew, as White attempted to open the hatch before he succumbed to the flames. There is some reason to suspect that on the audio tape one of the astronauts screamed out in agony.  

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