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POEM: Ron McNair, Astronaut & Saxophonist

Ron McNair, Astronaut & Saxophonist

I had a cassette tape of Jean-Michel Jarre’s concert album Houston/Lyon 1986.

The penultimate track was “Ron’s Piece,” intended to be a live collaboration with McNair, who would play the sax part on the space shuttle while Jarre handled the keyboards back on Earth.

(“Back on Earth!”)

Ron was on the Challenger.

In my memory my mom called the school, told the vice principal about the Challenger, had him call me to the office to tell me.

I remember the secretary handed me the receiver.

The phone was heavy.

That can’t be right, though, can it?

I kept a scrapbook afterward, cutting out articles from the local papers.

Every story had a photo of the long tubes of smoke, each ending with a piece of wreckage, in some of which there must have been parts of human beings.

Later I pasted concert tickets into the same scrapbook: The Moody Blues, Tears For Fears, Rush, Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull.

After the public lost interest in the shuttle program, my friends and I would sneak into the high school’s AV storage room to watch whenever a launch was broadcast.

Maybe on cable.

I can’t imagine they were on terrestrial TV by that point.

Anyway Ron wasn’t around to play his part, so Kirk Whalum played it.

They dedicated it to Ron.

The show must go on, I guess.

/ / /

11 January 2021
Colonie NY

Published in My poems Poetry


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