The English Astronaut

He splashed down in rough seas off Spurn Point.
I watched through a coin-op telescope jammed
with a lollipop stick as a trawler fished him out
of the waves and ferried him back to Mission
Control on a trading estate near the Humber Bridge.
He spoke with a mild voice: yes, it was good to be
home; he’d missed his wife, the kids, couldn’t wait
for a shave and a hot bath. ‘Are there any more
questions?’ No, there were not.
I followed him in his Honda Accord to a Little
Chef on the A1, took the table opposite, watched
him order the all-day breakfast and a pot of tea.
‘You need to go outside to do that,’ said the
waitress when he lit a cigarette. He read the paper,
started the crossword, poked at the black pudding
with his fork. Then he stared through the window
for long unbroken minutes at a time, but only at the
busy road, never the sky. And his face was not
the moon. And his hands were not the hands of a man
who had held between finger and thumb the blue
planet, and lifted it up to his watchmaker’s eye.

from Seeing Stars (2010)


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