Two small asteroids pass earth safely
this weekNASA headline

She stalks them for a living.
Even if she lives a hundred lifetimes,
she knows it’s unlikely she’ll ever
see one target earth.
NASA’s chief flycatcher,
she jokes to friends,
as she chases balls all over
the cosmic outfield.

Her job spans the solar system—
to spy a grain of sand
in the astral sea.
The orbital mechanics,
tidy and Newtonian,
speak for themselves.
No miracles…just time enough,
she thinks,
to stiff-arm it out of the way.

Yet when she surveys
the crazed orbital landscape,
and imagines objects approaching,
large and largely immovable,
she thinks of their rock-hard
lack of empathy.
The side that never gives an inch.
The side that—once the ball’s in the air—
rarely misses.
Numbers, she whispers to herself,
that never lie.

And then in that intuitive shiver
she knows so well,
in that moment beyond science,
beyond anything Webb’s eye
spies at the universe’s ends,
she wonders, Are we—we earthlings—
the asteroid that never misses?

Inspired by an interview with the head
of NASA’s deep space asteroid detection

Dick Altman writes at 7,000 feet on New Mexico’s high desert. Published widely here and abroad, he’s a poetry winner in Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition. His work’s been selected for the first volume of The New Mexico Anthology of Poetry, to be published by the New Mexico Museum Press.