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Moonrise (July 20, 1969)

U.S. astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes the American flag on the surface of the Moon after he and fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first men to land on the Moon during the Apollo 11 space mission on July 20, 1969.

The moon marked out the edge of heaven.
On this, our scriptures all agreed.
The moon was fixed, it could not fall.
The moon would fill our final needs.

The songs we’d learned were of the moon,
A fitting subject, known to all,
But the songs we sang were of the Earth,
And those that lived before the Fall.

These songs of forests flowing round
The Earth’s four corners warmed the frost
That killed our gardens, coming early,
To remind us all of what we’d lost.

“Why wander yearning for the moon?”
We’d ask of stones and ancient trees.
Their silence sang back in the night,
Of lands where all free choices freeze.

“Tranquillity”, they promised us,
“Is the highest peak you will attain.
Tranquillity, where your bones will rest
Forever in the airless rains.”

Our numbers grew, as did our tongues,
Beside brown rivers, on ancient plains.
We made more gods, we built up walls,
We fashioned towers of dirt and rain.

Within those walls we planted fruit
And flowers bordering roofless rooms,
Wherein we sang the centuries down,
Observing all the phases of the moon.

In time our towers turned to steel,
And their foundations into fire.
The rooms we made were sealed as stone,
And in those rooms we rose much higher.

The moon grew monstrous as we ascended;
In our window it grew larger than the world.
We lowered our ladder gingerly,
Stepped down, a bit of cloth unfurled.

We named the place Tranquillity.
A fitting gesture, all agreed.
We photographed ourselves on site,
Tossed away some junk we did not need,

And left, returning to that place
Where we’d begun beside the plains,
Boasting our footprints would endure
Forever in the airless rains.

Sometimes at night, we still look up
And see the moonrise scrape the sky.
It is the same, yet not the same,
And we know why, yes, we know why.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • John Venlet July 20, 2018, 1:05 PM

    Such an auspicious day and event, a Sunday, that my parents even allowed us to watch this on teevee. A usually verboten activity for the Lord’s day.

  • Patvan July 20, 2018, 1:33 PM

    I first (and always) read your poem(s) as presented.
    Regarding these poems, sometimes I’m driven to feel the need to read each stanza backwards.
    (I’m weird that way.)
    It’s those sometimes that I do the smilecry….
    Thank you…again. Just fookin wow.

  • Bill in Tennessee July 20, 2018, 3:27 PM

    Excellent poetry, again. I’m just a poor technical writer, now retired, and now an alt-right agitator, but I could never rise to this level of writing.
    But I do wonder, when I see the full moon, why did we abandon the space program and not return to the moon? If we are ever to escape this crowded prison planet, the moon will need to be our starting point.

  • Dr. Jay July 20, 2018, 3:39 PM

    My grandmother never believed the Moon Landing actually happened. If questioned about it she’d reply, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” Then with a smile she’d say, “that’s Chico Marx in Duck Soup.” My grandmother was a real hoot.

  • jwm July 20, 2018, 4:32 PM

    I remember watching it on TV. And I love this poem.
    There are very few poets who can put a chill on my spine or a lump in my throat. VanderLeun, Kipling, James Dickey…


  • Casey Klahn July 20, 2018, 7:44 PM

    Best blog post today. Not surprised.

    The moon! Suck it, Russia! EU? Who??

    We got bored, and left the keys in the moon buggy, because we knew we’d be back. Got. To. Love. Cadillac for that one.

  • Snakepit Kansas July 21, 2018, 6:50 AM

    Although I will never buy GM again due to their acceptance of terms for the Gubmint bailout, my 2006 Caddy CTS six speed manual has been a fantastic car. Hopefully my last car. Next time I move, I hope it is the cemetary.

  • ghostsniper July 21, 2018, 7:25 AM

    Bill in Tennessee, you’re the only person I have ever heard saying the same thing I have for decades.
    How can they be shooting stuff at Mars and elsewhere when they haven’t exploited that moon yet?
    Has anyone seen with their own eyes and a telescope the earthly “debris” that was left there?
    Then how do we know 20 July 1969 happened?
    That was 49 years ago, there should be vast habitation there now.
    Instead of funding warring nations the extremely wealthy should have created a coalition to get this moving. Paging Gates, Bezos, Zuck, Soros, etc.
    I’ll ride the first convoy up and supervise construction, stay there til I die, cremated, go back from wence it came.

    I am made from the dust of the stars
    and the oceans flow in my veins
    Here I hide in the heart of the city
    like a stranger coming out of the rain

    The evening plane rises up from the runway
    over constellations of light
    I look down into a million houses
    and wonder what you’re doing tonight

  • Fred July 21, 2018, 8:23 AM

    Except that EV cars are a giant leap backwards.

  • Kerry July 21, 2018, 1:03 PM

    Ghostsniper! Great reference and most appropriate for this post. When I need something to pick me up out of the doldrums, I have tuned into Presto many times. It’s one of my favorite Rush numbers.

  • Gordon Scott July 24, 2018, 3:36 PM

    late, but Ghost: We have pictures from lunar satellites that show the landing sites.

    The technology to fake the photos and video of the moon walks didn’t exist.

    Apollo 11’s crew deployed a mirror array. Today, if you have a powerful laser, you can laze that array, and record the nearly 3 second delay as the beam is reflected back. It’s pretty hard to fake that delay because of, you know, physics.

  • butch July 20, 2019, 4:29 AM

    Bill in Tennessee – We traded the stars for the Great Society. We chose poorly.

  • Richard July 20, 2019, 6:10 AM

    Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, who became the first man to set foot on the moon earlier in the year, talks to U.S. troops during a surprise appearance with Bob Hope’s Christmas show at the 1st Infantry Division headquarters.
    Vietnam 1969


  • David July 20, 2019, 6:52 AM

    The Green Hills of Earth

    Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
    As they rove around the girth
    Of our lovely mother planet
    Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

    We’ve tried each spinning space mote
    And reckoned its true worth:
    Take us back again to the homes of men
    On the cool, green hills of Earth.

    The arching sky is calling
    Spacemen back to their trade.
    And the lights below us fade.

    Out ride the sons of Terra,
    Far drives the thundering jet,
    Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
    Out, far, and onward yet —

    We pray for one last landing
    On the globe that gave us birth;
    Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
    And the cool, green hills of Earth.

  • Vanderleun July 20, 2019, 8:01 AM

    I know that poem well from its first publication in a pulp SF magazine… It was somewhere in the back of my mind as I wrote this poem.

  • Larry Geiger July 20, 2019, 9:06 AM

    I was at KSC yesterday. Took the bus to the Saturn V center. As you go into the center there is a presentation showing the consoles that were in the LCC for Apollo. My dad was downstairs below the firing rooms on the second floor running the video switcher. The Saturn V is in there on it’s side. It’s a big thing. I saw Apollo 11 lift off. I heard if lift off. I felt it lift off. If they say it didn’t go to the moon, oh well. But it left the earth. I can attest to that.

  • Bunny July 20, 2019, 10:55 AM

    Why are people pining for the moon? Humans are made for earth and we haven’t even learned to live well here at home. Must be missing a chromosome or something.

  • Bunny July 20, 2019, 10:57 AM

    To make it perfectly clear, I must be lacking because I don’t really get it. Sure, it must have been a great accomplishment, but…

  • Bunny July 20, 2019, 11:30 AM

    I wish there were an edit button, then I might post just once. So this is what we got. The ct scan is good, I suppose, the computer chip is debatable. But insoles?
    Honestly, when I look up at the night sky, I had rather see an inviolable moon and contemplate the beauty and power of God’s creation than think of the junk we left up there. We were, however, all glued to the TV and I think my mother wrote a poem about it.

  • Lance de Boyle July 20, 2019, 11:48 AM

    When’s this Vanderleun fella gonna publish his poems?

    Speaking of Chrissie Hynde….

    Most awesome….


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