Poetry Friday: “First Men on the Moon”

Forty-Nine years ago, my family sat in front of our television and watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon. This was, for me, one of the most thrilling event of my life. When I stood in front of the Apollo 11 command module at the Air & Space Museum thirty years later, I felt the same awe and excitement. So it felt appropriate to commemorate this day here.

J. Patrick Lewis memorialized the event in his poem, “First Men on the Moon.”

“The Eagle has landed!” —Apollo II Commander Neil A. Armstrong
“A magnificent desolation!” — Air Force Colonel Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr.
July 20, 1969

That afternoon in mid-July,
Two pilgrims watched from distant space
The moon ballooning in the sky.
They rose to meet it face-to-face.

Their spidery spaceship, Eagle, dropped
Down gently on the lunar sand.
And when the module’s engines stopped,
Rapt silence fell across the land.

The first man down the ladder, Neil,
Spoke words that we remember now–
“One small step…” It made us feel
As if we were there too, somehow.

When Neil planted the flag and Buzz
Collected lunar rocks and dust,
They hopped like kangaroos because
Of gravity. Or wanderlust?

Read the rest of the poem here.

In addition to the front page news articles, which you can read here, The New York Times also included a poem, “Voyage to the Moon,” by Archibald MacLeish.

Wanderer in our skies,
dazzle of silver in our leaves and on our
waters silver, O
silver evasion in our farthest thought–
“the visiting moon,” “the glimpses of the moon,”

and we have found her.

From the first of time,
before the first of time, before the
first men tasted time, we sought for her.
She was a wonder to us, unattainable,
a longing past the reach of longing,
a light beyond our lights, our lives–perhaps
a meaning to us–O, a meaning!

Now we have found her in her nest of night.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Apollo 11
View of Earth rising over Moon’s horizon taken from Apollo 11 spacecraft
Credit: NASA
Please be sure to visit Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “First Men on the Moon”

  1. Catherine, I remember that grand day when the moon became a real place rather than just a far-off imagined sight for us to behold. Thanks for sharing your memory of it and the poems that make us recall the glorious event in history.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember this amazing event as well. I seem to remember being in my PJs and my parents waking me up to see it. Thanks for bringing this to mind with these 2 great poems. It helps me to know that poetry is about history, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The imagery in MacLeish’s poem is lovely. “dazzle of silver in our leaves” and “Now we have found her in her nest of night.” Poetry and science are a magical combination. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sure we watched this. I wish I could remember the moment! Love MacLeish’s poem — that moment when he/the reader/the astronauts turned from the wandering moon to the wandering Earth.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “found her in the nest of night, “rapt silence”–I saw it with my own 5-year-old eyes and still can’t believe it is real that humans walked on that moon…and came back alive. It’s extraordinary, really. Great poem choices!

    Liked by 1 person

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