for Gene Cernan, January 16, 2017
The truth is I didn’t get along with the other guys.
I admired them in a way, and they were nice enough,
in the simulators and on the missions. But secretly,
they bored me. Do you know, my commander turned
away when I poured wine on the moon? We had
just landed, and I said the Our Father and put the host
on my tongue. When I poured the little bottle of wine
it flowed like a thick, red syrup–that slowly–but
the commander wasn’t looking. I think he was nervous.
There was a pause, then we flipped more switches.
The LEM looked so small when I turned back
from a distance. I had driven the rover onto the rim
of a crater about five miles away, and from there
the lander looked like a spindly toy against
the Taurus Mountains. I was working then, just like
anyone else. I had my tools. I took sips of water.
My little house was waiting for me, down in the valley.
The hummocks and hills looked so soft and bright
I longed to lie down in their dust and never get up.
I left a lot of things on the moon. I left a gold ring.
I left my book. I left a picture of Mom and Dad
with me and Tim and Ted outside our church
at my confirmation. I remember how red Mom’s dress
looked against the gray, how suddenly I knew color
is a miracle. That’s when I started writing in the dust,
like at a beach when you’re marooned, but I was just
writing words. I wrote “God?” in big letters. I wrote
a “yes” and a “no.” I wrote the name of my daughter.
I wrote a lot of words on the moon, words that no one
will ever know or see. They’re all still up there.
from The Next Thing Always Belongs (Airlie Press, 2011)