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Poetic License: ‘Moon Day (Where Were You On July 20, 1969?)’

By Staff | Jul 16, 2019

Joe Pacheco

(Editor’s note: The poem will be broadcast on WGCU (90.1 FM) on July 19 during “Morning Edition” at 8:45 a.m. and during “All Things Considered” at 4:44 p.m. It has been previously broadcast on WGCU Public Media. To listen to it, visit news.wgcu.org/post/where-were-you-july-20-1969.)

On the eve of my thirty-ninth birthday,

wheeling the TV cart

into the living room

of my center hall colonial

with my wife and in-laws

and my eldest daughter Randy

on her grandfather’s lap,

(four year old Allegra

asleep in her room),

five pairs of human eyes

drinking in the incredible –

men on the moon,

greatest scientific feat of all time,

and I still struggling

with the rabbit ears antenna

to make the image clearer;

Armstrong’s carefully prepared

“one step, one leap” metaphor

milking in best Madison Avenue style

the great moment for what

it would always be worth;

my father-in-law and I

engaged in speculation

about how Jewish astronauts

could observe Rosh Hodesh,

or say the prayer to the new moon

while standing on it,

my daughter interrupting,

“Grandpa, I know the prayer by heart.”

then all of us quiet for a long time –

my last hope that it might be a hoax gone,

I felt bereft – beauty and belief

and fancies once owned proudly

now replaced by a lifeless sphere.

Next day, my birthday,

having been declared Moon Day,

the New York Times

printed its special edition

with several poems by poets

including Archibald MacLeish,

some acclaiming the achievement,

others lamenting the loss,

a feast for poets

but my muse silent, lifeless.

Since then,

the moon reminds me

from time to time

that on that day

a member of my species

trampled on her face,

violating with one irreverent step

a million years of magic

and myth and wondrous gazing –

brother Apollo’s module chariot

pulling from afar

and away from us

the last ebb of silver dream.