A Universe of One
“Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins”
Apollo 11 Mission Log, 9:44 a.m. July 29, 1969
Strapped into a capsule, his back to all he’d known, eyes fixed
on a great blackness that was broken only by a million stars,
he was a census of one, enveloped in a conical world.
Separate from all that ever lived – his mates
having dropped from view, vanished to nothing
against the slate blue of the Sea of Tranquility.
Mike Collins, alone – the moon between him and us,
could see our future in his isolation from everything –
as he slipped by in his tiny home
with no seasons, no green or scent of soil,
no fettle of blood-drenched battle, no sighs
but his own – he sailed in silence.
The only man alive with no horizon, he carried
fire in his mind, vivid: the world wrought by poets,
mountains and rivers without end, a choir of migrating geese,
and, oh, the cloud-strewn Earth and its ruddy terminus –
seen each time his ship, impossibly small in
the thrall of space, peeked from behind.
These things he could describe – words already said:
pale blue dot, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
nature red in tooth and claw, a red red rose.
These things he could not describe: emptiness,
the cosmos, not even sorrow – because nothing exists
when each of us is a universe of one.