Sunday, August 26, 2012

So Neil Armstrong Has Gone Back To The Moon

Almost full moon, Wexford
I wasn't going to post anything about Neil Armstrong, who died yesterday, because I didn't believe I'd have anything to say. But it was my era, the late 60s and early 70s, those surges of nightmare and optimism. And that sudden obsession with the moon: the first colour photos filling the supplements, up close but unreal, as if the ground were carved out of rain-cloud, the amazing Earth bright and lurid as a beach ball, the frail-looking LEM, something a child might fashion from cardboard and baking foil, the Michelin Men in their bouncy suits, their little flag that had to be wired rigid so as not to wilt, and those griddled, bear-like footprints that may remain in that weatherless museum for whatever comes: our future selves, ET, the stars' faceplate... 

Anyway, all this comes by way of my old friend Anthony Glavin. I remembered this morning that he had written something that would be appropriate to the occasion, a single quatrain from Living In Hiroshimahis great unfinished sequence that seems to have something to say about practically every major event in the 20th Century, be it personal or historical. So here it is, a postcard from the future past:


       'One small step ... a giant leap ... ' And there,
       Blue-white, a sea-pearl, eyeing us from empty space ....

       My headset's gone –– repeat, You quite asleep, girl?
       Ghost-zone. Interference. Wish you were here.

       from The Wrong Side of the Alps (The Gallery Press, 1989)

I'll finish by quoting part of a statement released by Neil Armstrong's family, a lovely last flourish that Anthony would have appreciated:

'... and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the Moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.'

Monday, August 06, 2012


Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

No better name for it. The flight director
admits ‘I get butterflies every now and then.’

After the excitement of the spidery
EDL, the never-tried-before

sky-crane, the flare of rockets, the softened thud,
the red dust recovering on the earless plain ––

there are little alien sounds, clicks
and the hum of motors, calibrated wheels

laying down, scrupulous and slow,
an incremental script in the pristine

pigment scattered just so. It focuses, sniffs ––
carbon? carbon? yes? yes? no? ––

and gets the better of us, bomb-detection robot
on an abandoned street, face pressed

to a steamed-up kitchen window: night
and the neighbours have switched on their blinds;

what are the sepia-pink shadows –– that loom, blur
and disappear –– doing now?

Photo, taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows Curiosity having deployed its parachute.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.