When I most need light, it’s a night sky that comforts me. Look up: see that matrix of stars, the spaces between? Empty or burning, there’s purpose – and therefore possibility. One more candle of hope kindles whenever I look up.
“We got a good picture now.”
A television hummed in the small family room, broadcasting news that no one was really listening to anymore. Mommy and Daddy and their friends were all on their feet, cheering, clinking beer bottles. Wendy was watching from the top of the stairs. She was supposed to be in bed, but how could she have possibly slept, with those men walking around on that shining crescent out her window?
Onscreen, gray shapes and those impossible words: LIVE FROM THE SURFACE OF THE MOON. They’d landed a whole six hours ago and were just now actually getting to walk on the Moon, and everyone in the world got to watch, live, from an unfathomable two hundred thousand miles away.
“Here he comes!” Mrs. Clawson, who believed in little green men, was the only grown-up still paying attention to the screen. The others hushed. Halfway through clinking bottles with Mr. Watson, Daddy spotted Wendy, her face scrunched between the balusters. She shrank back, torn between fear of her inevitable punishment and wanting to see Commander Armstrong set foot on the Moon.
“Someone’s coming down the ladder!” Mommy whispered.
“There’s a foot coming down,” Walter Cronkite echoed.
Wendy mimed pleading at Daddy, who grinned and gestured downstairs. She skidded down the carpeted steps and climbed into his lap.
The hulking, space-suited figure was making its way down the ladder with agonizing slowness. Wendy’s foot twitched impatiently, and she saw Daddy’s finger tapping against his bottle. No one spoke.
More huge words: ARMSTRONG ON MOON. More clinking glass, and amazed murmurs instead of cheers. Mrs. Clawson dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief.
“Pretty incredible, huh, kiddo?” Daddy said.
“Can I stay up and watch more?” Wendy whispered.
“That’s one small step for man…”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
How close to grasping Orion’s Belt
would you get before its tidy trio
stretched or tilted on the angling light-years –
or simply broke?
How deep into the Great Dipper’s bowl
could you dive before it resembled
not a skyborne ladle but something else –
or nothing at all?
How distant would you have to travel
before the spread of night’s dark fabric
stretched flat constellations into sculpture –
or into different shapes entirely?
How far could you fly before you looked back
and saw, with longing eyes and giddy heart,
the familiar night sky patterns
transmuted into a new universe?
How far could you go before your
order-craving mind confessed it could
no longer compress the independent,
far-flung stars into forms it can comprehend?
At that point, I could break, or cry, or dread –
but I think I would sing, and keep sailing.