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Thursday, March 04, 2021


by Dick Westheimer

This annotated image was taken by a parachute-up-look camera aboard the protective back shell of NASA's Perseverance rover during its descent toward Mars' Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. Using binary code, two messages have been encoded in the neutral white and international-orange parachute gores (the sections that make up the canopy's hemispherical shape). The inner portion spells out "DARE MIGHTY THINGS," with each word located on its own ring of gores. The outer band of the canopy provides GPS coordinates for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the rover was built and the project is managed. —NASA, February 25, 2021

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. —Theodore Roosevelt, “The Strenuous Life," April 10, 1899

The drogue deployed in a blue black sky
pulled nine Gs as it slowed the rover’s descent 
a rosette of white and red, it opened wide—
revealed to an observant few, a code

that drove the NASA team, words that T.R. wrote
of a strenuous life, of toil and hardship
of failure and strife: these are not a footnote
but the stuff of creation, of life’s drift

from the gray twilight to glorious triumphs.
There is no “easy peace,” just all the mighty things
from day to day, from here to enough
of how we end and how we begin, like

dying well
washing the dead
tending the sick
writing the one poem
writing the other
giving birth
being born
sitting silently, leaned against a tree
sitting silently 
passing by a panhandler
sitting by a panhandler
depressed, getting up in the morning 
sleep deprived, suckling a baby
wiping shit from the butt of an aged parent
knowing from the taste of soil if it’s sweet
forgiving a friend
learning birdsongs.

Dick Westheimer writes poetry to makes sense of the world—which is made easier by the company of his wife of 40 years, and the plot of land they’ve worked together for all of those years. His poems have appeared in Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, For a Better World, and Riparian.