Years ago, an old funeral
director taught us young’uns
the body is a glove and our hand
a spirit. “When we are born,” he purred,
tickling the opening of a white cottony glove,
“we put on our body.” Into the glove, he buried
his hand. “When we die,” he said before remains,
“we take the glove off again.” Pinching the cloth
fingertips, he slid his hand back out of the fabric.

That simple? Spirits glide in at birth and slide out
when we pass? Would have been neat if my late
great-uncle had sat up in the casket at that
moment and said, “Did you just compare
me to a glove? Brother, dying ain’t
jazz hands.”

That would have been cool—as cool
as my great-uncle’s wrist felt when
the funeral director encouraged me
to touch it like it was a mere glove.

Metaphor should be made of sterner stuff.

Last week I watched a rocket loft a Mars-
bound rover into space. A bulky friction-
stirred tube climbed off the launch pad,
trailing brimstone aura. Then, to survive
the crushing breath of Mother Earth,
the rocket slacked its climb midair—
they call that “max Q.” It’s cool.
When Mother’s breath thinned out,
the rocket roared up and on and up,
shaking the land with a dragon’s din.

I’ve heard this ancient rumble myself.

When the air was all gone, the rocket
split its top—a beautiful white cone
the makers had carefully bolted on
in a high bay clean and pure.
Those half-cones set to tumbling
back down and burning up,
as an earthen chorus cheered
in a firing room for all the Internet
to hear. Who will praise this body

my spirit drags out of bed at sunup
to shelter at a homebound desk—
remote, bare hands on a laptop
tapping, warm but forgettable?
Who will clap or shout Godspeed!
when I jettison my fairing and go
streaming back into heaven?
Or am I just another old
man’s glove?

Poet’s Notes:

Reactions and reflections are welcome below in the Comments section.

The featured image is a screen grab from the launch of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover atop a ULA Atlas V rocket on July 30, 2020.