Star Shell

Streaking through the atmosphere at 18 times the speed of sound, Columbia disintegrated Saturday morning about 15 minutes before its scheduled landing...
—Saturday, February 1, 2003,

I should have read the signs.
Over our desert, a shuttle explodes,
stelliscript I misread:

gold lights shuttling the dawn like shot silk.
For us, this is no aubade, but crossed stars.

They say both armies and lovers
engage; they say binary stars in a fatal
embrace cannot disengage; they say

the wine of comet years is exquisite.
Over our desert, a shuttle bursts into stars:
what vintage do we then quaff?

Read the sky west-to-east for good tidings,
north-to-south to be forewarned of evil.

Even later, when I understood
what I had read there—still beautiful.

—Heidi Kristine Czerwiec, Grand Forks, ND