Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Rocket Scientist
by David Alpaugh

Among twenty shooting stars
The only man made fire
Was the tail of his rocket.

He was of three minds,
Like a rocket
In which there are three stages.

The Minotaur howled at the stellar wind,
A scrap of heavy metal in the cosmic anthem.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of lift-off
Or the beauty of re-entry,
The rocket reaching for the stars
Or the module bobbing in the sea.

Spray-painted on the windshield
Of his Tesla:
Fuck The Space Force!
Reminding our rocketeer
Want their tax dollars wasted HERE,
Not in some far-flung “milky” way.

O stout men of NASA,
Why do you imagine silver nerds
Tottering about on Mars?
Do you not see how this swiftly tilting earth
Trips not the feet of your children?

I know the most benign rocket
May become some madman’s instrument of war.
But I also know
Elon Musk may go
Where no egomaniac has gone before.

Voyager 1 left its solar system
Of thirty-five years
To chase after starlets light years away.

At the sight of ICBMs
Rocketing through grey fog towards San Francisco
Even the frauds of anarchy
Would douse their molotov cocktails.

He rode over Alaska
In a Hummer.
Once, he beshit his long johns
In that he mistook
The biker in his rear view mirror
For William Shatner.

POTUS’s finger pushes the button.
Our missiles must be flying.

It was nuclear winter all morning.
Acid rain was falling.
You don’t have to be
A Rocket Scientist 
To be banged by its whimper.

David Alpaugh’s poetry, drama, fiction and criticism have appeared in journals that include The American Journal of Poetry, Chronicle of Higher Education, Evergreen Review, Modern Drama, Poetry, Rattle, Spillway, and Zyzzyva. His collection, Counterpoint, won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize from Story Line Press, and he has been a finalist for Poet Laureate of California. Anthologies that have published his work include California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present (from Heyday Press) and the Norton Critical Anthology Eight Modern Plays. He teaches literature at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and poetry writing at the University of California Berkeley Extension. Access more of his work at:

Other David Alpaugh Mudlarks:
Double-Title Poems (2016) and More Double-Title Poems (2017)
In Praise of Writer’s Block (2004) and Summer Job (2006)

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