I originally wrote this sonnet when moon landings were not a lifetime ago, when the future seemed possible rather than dull. Once it would have been impossible for idiots to question the reality of the moon landings—even the later, duller ones. The poem’s meaning has, however, become ever more ironic with each passing year (rather like watching 2010 on Turner Classic Movies yesterday or realizing James Blish’s A Case of Conscience is set in 2050—fearfully near now). Although gorgeous images of Gravesian goddesses and soulful Campbellian quests color the poem, the ultimate reward, our boon, of the last line is unquestionably real now.
We tasted dust in the moon bowl:
metallic granite grimed our plastic fingertips
and dirtied sterile feet on our fleet ships.
Thus reasonably we reached our ancient goal
and pranced, ungainly satyrs, in the hole,
that dowager crater, the grail not for lips.
Quest without magic: we marked wonder in quips
and gifts (Teflon®, freeze-dried, our heroic dole).
We sought the old goddess, intelligent lust,
and touched her, no deity, discovering dust.
But who had translated that cold lunar shoal
in the vacuum darkness, sunhot end of our thrust
outward from home? Who’d turn stories to rust
and substitute treasures with coal? Just dust.