MUSEUM OF THE MOON

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In silence, mouth open in surprise,
I stood beneath the shining Moon.
“It’s only a balloon,” sighed a voice inside
My head, and I knew that, I did,
But my eyes refused to believe it,
Whispering “No, it’s the Moon,
Right there, above you”.

I had to see more.
Clomping up the creaking steps to the balcony
I could see it shining through the door,
The silhouettes of other sightseers
Cut out of it, black ink stains on its glowing face.
I had expected a new Space Race,
A rush to the front, but there was no crush,
Just an awed hush, everyone there
Unable to do anything but stare and stare and stare…
And there – the crescent of Eddington crater.

Downstairs in the darkened church once more
I walked round and and around it, slack-jawed,
Ignoring the hundreds of others gathered there;
Stalking my favourite craters like a hunter,
Smiling when I found them exactly where
They always are in my eyepiece.
There was Tycho – its bright rays
Spraying away from it like splashes of paint;
Schrodinger, with its Donnie Darko rabbit ears,
A fearful hole near the icy southern pole;
Copernicus, mighty Monarch of the Moon,
A cosmic bullet’s entry wound at the end
Of the great Appennine Mountain range…
All perfectly in place –

– and there, right above me,
The most lovely lunar scar of all:
The brutal beauty of Mare Orientale,
A bulls-eye of ancient crags and peaks
Never seen in full from Earth, a sight reserved
For beeping space-probes, Apollo astronauts
And my dreams –

“Where did they land?” an old man asked
From beside me, head tilted back
Like mine. Which ones? I almost replied
But knew exactly who he meant.
Six pairs of boots had stepped carefully down
Ladders to stand on Luna’s plains,
Crump-crumping across the dust,
But only one craft’s name is now remembered:
Eagle, the First, immortalised
By Armstrong’s classic line.
“On the other side,” I sighed,
“Round here,” steering him around a dozen wide-eyed
Children until we both stood beneath Crisium’s
Round, dark birthmark.
“Right… there…” I said, surfing
My laser pointer’s cherry red star
Across the scarred landscape to Tranquility Base.
His face broke into a smile. “Thank you”,
He whispered, “Thank you..” and walked away,
Leaving me alone beneath the Moon.

Wishing it could stay.

(c) Stuart Atkinson 2016

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