Skip to main content

Are we nearly there yet?


There’s been an awful lot of moon poems recently – of course.

I’ve enjoyed many (Ted Hughes’ is one of my favourites) but there’s a definite tendency for the moon to bring on, well soppy thoughts – and often not that original.  All of which is understandable, what with the 50th anniversary – these round figures seem to encourage sentimentality – the role the moon’s always played in mythology, its soft silver subtlety… oh no, I’m finding myself sliding that way.

I was struck by the comments I heard about the moon dust – how abrasive, tenacious and unpleasant it was.  The lunar module commander, a bit like Mrs Tittlemouse, was put out by the influx of this sand on the return of the explorers.  He had to fuss around, clearing up, tut tutting the while.

It all reminded me of the pervasive quality of sand after beach visits – sand in the ears and hair, sand in the footwell of the car, sand in shoes days afterwards, sand in, well, the sandwiches.

Maybe it’s because we’re now entering the summer holiday season, but I began to see the whole moon visiting business as a glorified trip to the seaside.

What a business it is, organising a beach day! All sorts of clothing in case it rains or gets cold, towels, windbreaks, buckets and spades, food and drink – and then the bags and rucksacks to put it all in.  The journey never quite runs smoothly, until we finally stagger through the sand – that sand – heavily laden and clumsy, to find a place that probably won’t satisfy everyone…

Sorry – I don’t mean to sound grumpy, but the awareness of all that looking after those who need looking after also somehow coincided with feelings about the moon landing, when I saw those visitors – highly-skilled, exceedingly brave, physically robust technicians as they are – almost as children.  It was the flag that topped it off, bringing a welcome smile.

So, as I sit indoors writing with the family, guess where? – I thought my moon poem had to visit the funny side of the moon, conscious of some of the associations of the word lunatic – even perhaps be slightly abrasive.

I’ll be gathering up the buckets and spades – along with that bent-stemmed little union flag which never gets lost – admiring the trophies (smelly shells and crab carapaces), hearing about it all and sweeping out the car later.

Tale of a Flag


He climbs down the ladder onto the sand
under the eye of his friend
who can’t wait to be out there as well.

He sees him jumping – little stones flying,
the dust slow to settle – everything
slowed down, as if in a dream.

Like a child at the seaside, he’s holding a flag –
his country’s of course, though this one is special,
seeming to fly, in no wind.

No place for a sandcastle.  They’ll push it in here.
Take a picture. The flag shows who owns it,
this untrodden beach where no tide will come.

So now, he can hop out
into this dry sea, the Sea of Tranquillity
to gather some fragments, as if they were shells.

The order has come – it’s time to go home.
As home is a long way away
they’re told they must rest first.

Some fragments and sand are their souvenirs –
a bag full of rocks and some very good pictures,
with that photographed flag

left behind. But the exhaust from the engine

flutters the flag, blowing it flat as they leave.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead.
I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse.

Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting
as they cropped up tone of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

It took a little while for me to realise why.
Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow.

The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur.

Here's my second verse:

At first it was the one-armed monsters,
set free within their caged arena
to trundle round, and gently paw
the ground, then pile up mounds of earth
accompanied by Lego men.

I was pleased with my trope, so muc…

Do you remember an inn, Miranda? Do you remember...

Of course I knew that poetry can short circuit.
That’s the point of it really – to go straight from the centre of one’s being – the deep heart’s core – to another, perhaps not needing even to think.Like music, poetry can fly: cut directly through clutter – all those habits, pretence and assorted nonsense and trivia of everyday so-called grown-up life, to ancient memories, deep-seated experiences and relationships, and love itself.
I’ve been reminded of this vital ability of poetry by the recent happy experience of working with an amazing National Memory Day Project.Literature Works at Plymouth University, in partnership with the Poetry Archive, supported by the Alzheimer’s Society put out a call to train and commission poets to use poetry to help people living with memory loss.
The idea was that by reviving memories through the shared recollection of much-loved poems, confusion might be alleviated, conversation encouraged, speech difficulties eased and creativity stimulated.
Learning…

Some art work is like poetry...

Some art work is like poetry.
Of course, much isn’t – at least obviously.Many a huge oil painting is closer to drama – perhaps even better, opera.Most portraits are more or less representational, especially in pre-photographic times.Landscapes are records, as are Still Lifes…
But realising that all these may have emotion imbued or expressed, indeed that the very reason for painting or drawing is to offer a unique individual’s point of view, I appreciate that I’m arguing against myself.
Still, when pictures strive to be succinct and every line has to count, when a whole story is told with deceptive simplicity, when so much is expressed in a compressed form and when there’s an acute awareness of a sense of balance, harmony, even rhythm (I can’t pretend rhyme has a place in visual art) – well then they share much with poetry.
And none more so than Hans Holbein’s sequence of The Dance of Death.
41 tiny images – each no bigger than a match box – depict Death in the form of a skeleton, ca…