Do you remember when we used the Moon
To measure menses, measure time by month?
We’d found the Moon determined tides and blood,
So planted crops and children by its tides.
From tribal gods of weather, waves and war
We groped, pre-Science, through theology,
Trying to grasp the world and life and death,
Leaving the worship of the moon behind.
The atheist Gagarin, first to heaven,
Noted he didn’t see a God up there.
American believers, first to the Moon,
Quietly said nothing, and moved on.
Now city kids may never have seen stars…
Soon satellites will blanket the night sky…
With skyless nights, why should we still use months?
And when in space, why months? Or days? Why years?
Not knowing where we’re headed, all we know:
That god or goddess Moon’s left far behind.
This poem was published in the latest issue of Sally Long’s biannual Allegro Poetry Magazine. The issue has a theme of ‘Geography’, so the subjects range from the gardens at Stowe to the aftermath of Hiroshima. Perhaps the moon is in itself a little outside the Earth-bound definition of geography, but as it has always been such a big part of our lives on this planet I think it’s fair to include it. And people have been there, and will go again. And our attitudes to the Moon and Heaven and Earth will keep on evolving as humans themselves will change, moving forward in unknowable time and space.
The poem is in iambic pentameter, but lacks the rhyme and wordplay that I advocate for poetry. I thought of trying to shrink it down from 18 lines to a sonnet’s 14, which is a trick I’ve used before to make myself find rhymes and generally tighten up a poem; but in this case I couldn’t see which blocks of four lines I could combine, eliminate or otherwise reduce – they all seemed necessary, and hard to shrink. I hadn’t thought of going for four blocks of three lines each, with a concluding couplet… but that might provide a solution, if I feel up to attempting it for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile, if you’ve never seen Georges Melies’ 12-minute 1902 movie ‘Le Voyage dans la Lune’, here it is with an electronic soundtrack by Andreas Brink. Yes, our ideas about the moon keep changing…