Half a century since Sputnik bleeped,

leaping from the frozen steppes, creeping

up on a sleeping world to whirl

around the startled Earth; no surfing

of websites then, just frightened men

and women scanning the sky with wide

and “Can it be true?” eyes

for The Sputnik’s fleeting spark

cutting through the dark, a grain

of shining diamond dust – the first

ever seen – gleaming and rushing through

the night, a wondrous sight to celebrate

or terrify, depending on the country

you called Home…


Half a hundred times since then

our watery world has whirled around

the Sun and all the dreams

that Sputnik’s fleeting flight inspired

seem to have blown away. True, shuttles fly,

a space station skates across the sky,

but we are exiled on the Earth.

The blue and green world of Man’s birth

remains his only home, though once

we roamed the Moon’s ancient, ashen plains,

played golf on that alien land, planted

flags of bright red white and blue

and our footprints in its grey dust too –


But no-one walks on Luna now;

No lights shine in our satellite’s dark seas,

instead it mocks and teases us

as it moves across the sky,

wondering why we ran away and didn’t

stay to lay foundations for a second

home for Man. It cannot understand,

it makes no sense to stand in such

a glorious, golden place

only to turn your face away

from the Future’s blinding light.


I am ashamed of our Dunkirk retreat

from the solar system’s nearest beach;

afraid that in a thousand years

historians and scholars will sneer at us

and, hearing Armstrong speak

those famous New World words

will think our age absurd, and curse

our generation for its timid toe-dip

in the surf of the ocean of the night.


© Stuart Atkinson 2007


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