The Heat of the Moon

by Gary Paul Lehmann

Gibbous moon

Johannes Kepler felt the heat on the back of his hand
before he understood its source.
It was a chill evening in fall.
He had moved his table of mirrors over to the open window
and bundled himself warmly against the cold night air.

Methodically, scientifically, he aimed each concave mirror at a planet
and directed the reflection at the center of his table
where, one by one he sought to determine
if a radiating body gave off enough rays to be focused on a single site,
yet he did not expect to have results so soon.

As he guided one mirror toward the frozen image of Venus in the sky,
he inadvertently placed another in the path of the moon,
and his hand suddenly burned with the heat of it.
He pulled it back in surprise and shock.
He rubbed it to remove the pain. It was beyond belief. The moon?

Could the moon have transmitted such warmth to his hand?
Had he felt the face of the moon upon the back of his hand?
Could it be? The heat of the moon from so far off?
He tried again, and again the heat of the moon drove him away.
Again the pain. It was true! Astonishing! The heat of the moon!

First published in Strange Horizons
Copyright © 2001, Gary Paul Lehmann

Gary Lehmann teaches writing and poetry at the Rochester Institute of Technology. His poetry and short stories are widely published — about 60 pieces a year. He is the director of the Athenaeum Poetry group which recently published their first chapbook, Poetic Visions. When not writing or teaching, he interprets 19th century shoemaking at the Genesee Country Museum.

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