Tribute to Aleksei Leonov

The world’s first spacewalk, March 18, 1965.
On Oct. 11, Aleksei Leonov died.

Aleksei Leonov, 1934 – 2019

You found yourself in a helluva spot,

even if it wasn’t a spot, no place

to stand, weightless, bleeding air,

trying to climb back inside

that crazy inflatable airlock,

your suit ballooning after

ten minutes making history,

the world’s first spacewalker,

bleeding air to reduce pressure,

the awkward suit so expanded

you felt as if you’d shrunk,

fingers no longer filling gloves.

— How did you even work the controls? —

Desperation drove you, bleeding air

from the suit to shrink it,

still unable to fit, bleeding a bit more

and a bit more air to collapse it further,

bleeding air toward death, until with a last cup

of a breath, soaked in sweat

you squeezed head-first

into the airlock, somehow

closing the hatch that opened

on the next fifty-five years,

the 226 spacewalkers who

by the time of your death,

followed you into the airless void.

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