Maggie Rosen

The Crash of the Shuttle Columbia* as Recorded by a Thermal Tile
by Maggie Rosen

We are surprisingly lightweight,
reusable, some made from sand.

We would crumble to the touch
without the coating

so fragile

so silent

thousands of us,
designed to protect from the void and the heat.

Hours spent holding us in place as the cement cured:
the risk of problems outweighed
by aspirations –the fatigue of need.

Our reinforced carbon took a hit from foam,
debris during launch.

We felt near to death then, and even more as orbits occurred
suns set
chatter immigrated through invisible wires.

What is there to say? The temperature rose inexorably and we failed.

One fell in northwest Texas,

before the disintegration.

Can we blame her? Tiles are shallow,
not poets or engineers
when the wing’s leading edge rises to 3000 degrees

even heroes evade
release themselves of purpose.

*February 1, 2003

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 19, Issue 1.

Maggie Rosen
Maggie Rosen lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. Most of her professional work has been as a teacher of English to speakers of other languages. Her chapbook, The Deliberate Speed of Ghosts, was published in 2016 by Red Bird Chapbooks. Learn more about her work at

See all items about Maggie Rosen

Visit Maggie Rosen’s contributors page.

Leave a Reply