Where Were You On July 20, 1969?

Jul 18, 2013

Sanibel poet Joe Pacheco remembers Moon Day this Saturday commemorating the first day man first walked on the moon on July 20th 1969.  The Apollo 11 carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin Jr.  The module, nicknamed “Eagle” brought about Neil Armstrong’s quote “The Eagle has landed” when it touched down as well as his proclamation “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Here’s Pacheco’s poem titled “Where Were You on July 20, 1969?”

(Read the Poem...)

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.