Our First Orbit by Bruce Spang

We could see the carnival lights
collapsed in the falling waves
as we rose from the platform—
my seven-year-old daughter and me
in a mini airplane, her body squinched against mine,
my arms folded over her as the machine,
its engine grinding, geared up, began to spin
with us tethered to a cable, picking up speed,
whirling outward, dipping down, flung up,
pilotless as the red and yellow lights splattered
the darkened beach below. When my daughter said,
“I’m going to be sick,” I told her to breathe because,
nearly sick myself, I needed to maintain
control and told her to focus on
something, anything unmoving, focus
on the steering wheel that, even in the grips
of centrifugal force, wasn’t moving. Not like us.
Nothing to hold onto, propelled fast enough
it seemed we’d gone by and caught up
with ourselves, and, once there, had gone
beyond ourselves, whirled so fast, time had cut loose
from itself. My hands around her, her hands
on the wheel, our stomachs in our throats,
the two of us unleashed from gravity,
space travelers flung into the stratosphere, out
in a galaxy yet unnamed. We held on
to one another and swore if we ever came
back to walk the boardwalk under our own
power, we’d remain there, earth our home.

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