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Freedom is Red

Antoinette Brim

The first time I asked a man for a divorce, the Challenger exploded. 
It wasn’t my fault, but seventeen years later, I’m divorcing again
and the Columbia is lost.  I wonder if it is wise to send up another shuttle. 

On the stretch of tape not damaged by heat,
the Columbia astronauts are laughing.  Happy to be
seconds from home.  When the tape ends, the newscast cuts to video
of streaks of burning shuttle. Two arcs of light in the sky. 

My daughter wants to show me a video she found in my bedroom. 
It’s a tape of her brother’s 5th birthday party.   She is only three months old, 
asleep in my mother’s lap, while squealing five-year-olds in cowboy hats, wearing
tin sheriff stars on their t-shirts munch gummy worms they pull from Oreo dirt pie.
She says I was the happy Mommy back then. 

Afterwards, I watch the news.  See the bombs falling on Baghdad.  Arcs of light
illuminating mosques and marketplaces.  Stars to be wished upon.  I am afraid
because Thelma’s son is there and Ann’s is on the way.

The president says we must free the people of Iraq.  It must be done. 
It makes no sense to me.  My divorce makes no sense to my daughter.  That I must
split us to make things better.  I tell her some things she is too young to understand.
I will explain them when she is older.  I pray I will have an answer for her by then.

So when I go to court, the judge will ask me what systems failed.
I’ll mumble something about shields and pressure and heat.
He’ll want to know if I could see it coming and I’ll say,
I thought something fell away at launch, but wasn’t it supposed to? 
Like when I was five and we watched the first men fly into space
on their way to the moon.  Didn’t the rocket break apart? 
Didn’t a fire ball fall to earth?  He’ll tell me
that was the old way.

When Baghdad falls, where will it land?  Who will be left to be free?
When all of the bombs have burst in mid-air.  When the red plumes are
burned to ash and cinder. To which victor will the spoils go? 
If I get the table and he gets the chairs, should the children stand over the table or
sit plate in hand?  Does it matter now which one of the thousands of shields failed?