06 October 2005


I wrote these poems seven or eight years ago*. Most of the time since they've been archived on my friend Danny's old website (you can get to his new one from there). Thanks Dan. I've dusted them off now as penance to Artemis for failing to observe the eclipse on Monday morning, I just done forgot.

*I've remembered I put them together in July 1999 for the thirtieth anniversary of Apollo 11. A month later B and I went to Hungary to see this total eclipse...

the surface

whisper it, but the place
is dead. time was
you could see greenery, shrubbery.
but on the surface, when the dust
settled, the green and the white
and the diamond blue were only
that roving sphere,
nine o'clock, turning world,
trying its best to remember you.

so say your prayers.
kiss the stone while
no one's looking.
where's the harm?
make a sign in the dirt
and ask for clemency,
the resurrection of the body,
a little Sinatra to see you through.

Moon, looking back

trepid explorers trundling
silver sacks of air across
my lovely ocean.

calls and signs, beep
and counterbeep.
Tranquility Base.

ball games. American
president takes a leak
before cocksure glory -

Heaven Now Part of Man's World.

Now Wash Your Hands.

I liked Neil. laughing,
the bottom of the ladder
was as high as he could go.

watched him shake
when Earth came up
smelling of roses.

Moon in winter

keeps his distance, what with
the traffic of nights, the rivers
of cold coursing through brittle cities,
and the lakes
like so many mirrors

you are GO

Frank Borman, Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, Tom Stafford,
John Young, Gene Cernan, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins,
Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, Al Bean,
Jack Swigert, Fred Haise, Al Shephard, Stu Roosa,
Ed Mitchell, Dave Scott, Al Worden, Jim Irwin,
Ken Mattingly, Charlie Duke, Ron Evans and Harrison Schmitt

fell under the influence.

one was first,
two saw God,
four went twice,
six flew solo
twelve came to the surface
all were GO

god speed Apollo 8

"at T minus 3 seconds there came a distant rumbling,
like thunder on the horizon, that swelled into a roar... "

three men in a tin can, can-do fellas
in harness, partial to adrenalin,
breaknecks and jet jockeys,
gods on the government payroll,
Borman, Lovell and Anders
save '68 by swinging
around the old moon.

piss, puke, breath, bone, blood.
hearts travelling faster, faster.
roll program, trajectory good,
guidance is good. quickening,
they take in oceans, ranges,
impossible continents.

then the incredible direction ---
translunar injection ---

"Apollo 8 Houston you are Go for TLI ."


Commander Borman blanched, caught
the bile rise, grinned, pinched himself ---

Lovell mentally leant over to Jules Verne,
"I can't believe you talked me into this" ---

Anders, amazing himself, wanted
to go round again, see San Diego.

the computer said, "99. 99. 99,
do you really want to do this?"

Lovell punched the button
like there was no tomorrow ---


time of arrival

Tranquillity gaped at the Eagle
as it fell, as it fell, as it fell ---

Tranquillity was alive to the footfall,
to the one small step of a man.

Tranquillity couldn't be certain
just how long he'd been holding his breath ---

for Tranquillity, time was a flower,
forever unfolding itself.

but when Tranquillity saw the explorers
come bounding like children in winter,

come combing the beach for their treasure,
for crabs' legs and pebbles and pearls,

Tranquillity leapt in the blackness,
and slowly, and slowly fell back ---

enjoying their palpable pleasure,
their serious joy at his world.


Ova Girl said...

well done sbs. just beautiful.

McK said...

Don't worry, Stephen, it was cloudy anyway.

spindleshanks said...

palpably pleasurable. what is TLI?

sbs said...

thankee shanks.
TLI stands for TransLunar Injection - the name given to the engine burn thattook the Apollo craft out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon, at very great speed. The 3 fellas on Apollo 8 still I think hold the record for the fastest speed in history in any vehicle...

sbs said...

correction, I looked it up - human speed record is held by Apollo 10.
24,791 mph at Earth reentry.

spindleshanks said...

crikey moses, do you think you can feel it going that fast or do you not because you are outside strong gravity so there is nothing to feel resistance against (physics not my strongpoint - can you tell?). mind you if it was reentry then i guess they get the gravity thing. they must have felt like they had a whole herd of elephants sitting on them, like on the luna park orbitron. and while we are on the subject, do they get asked at take-off if they want to proceed to TLI as a matter of course. and could one of them say actually i think i've changed my mind and then they ahve to abort the whole mission at the cost of billions of dollars. i wonder how many rockets have gone up under extreme peer pressure.

guile said...

enjoying their palpable pleasure,
their serious joy at his world.

i like this part..