When I was little, I thought the moon was Europe.
Or was like Europe.
Or would be like Europe, by the time I grew up.
Exotic, and far; but not impossibly far—we would go there
on vacation, once or twice, and learn about other cultures,
those that spawned ours—some of which died like
19th century mothers in childbirth.
By that time we would have found culture on the moon
and the moon’s culture would be something like Europe’s:
many museums with familiar paintings and sculptures,
canals and vast churches, old stone edifices,
gaudy commercials, bitter coffee and crusts of bread
and couture and whores in the windows
with Yma Sumac piped in.
It’s early enough in the day to pursue
other interests, like bass fishing and shopping for overpriced objects.
Or, you could get a cup of coffee and brood as to why
joy eludes you at every turn, and you turn
quite a bit.
Consider how limitless the world seemed
when Armstrong landed his prodigious foot in that weird
powder and bounced along from there.
Houston, the Eagle has landed.
Let’s take a dip in Tranquility Bay.
The astronauts, like gods, didn’t comment on their feelings
or suggest a course of action. They were too busy
collecting rocks after uttering a scripted sentence missing an article
and pushing that symbol into terra incognita.
I was awake but not too aware back then.
Vietnam in my living room
but I missed the causalities.
I missed my father’s heart attack, recovery.
I missed the Shelby Mustang, and the drumroll of assassinations.
Bound to leave my home, and not return.
Have you seen the pictures of the Saturn 5 separating?
Stage from stage, until the lunar module and lunar lander
on their own.
Get me out of this atmosphere!
Having done their part, they are dispensable.
If you think that happiness is a matter
of expectations fulfilled, think again.
That’s the only bad habit I ever picked up.
And still there’s the moon: half-dark, half-light,
never making us more welcome than on that first visit.
How does it expect to be like Europe?
People want to feel wanted and there is competition:
that hotbed, Mars.
Saturn, with those more than cocktail-party-distance rings.
And Venus, who seems close, beckons
but gives not an inch: tease and tart of the cosmos.
The planets cannot help what they are, locked
in orbit. Can we?
Before age five, I had free will.
William James said: My first act of free will shall be to believe
in free will.
After, destiny took over, and everything I decided
in the most labored fashion, was already
coded in the stars.