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.