EarthriseHe comes to the New World
to make his name.  Instead
his name makes him.  He writes
and syllables scatter, lifted
like Platanus seeds by the wind.
His progeny take root
miles past where his feet step.
When he bathes in the ocean
long red schools upwell
to feed on stray letters
washed off in the tide.

One night, as he sleeps
in a tent by the river,
the Moon comes in the shape
of a woman, pale and austere.
She pulls him reluctant
over the treetops, through the ice
fiber of cloud, for a better view.

She is neither silver nor cheese
but basalt underfoot,
comfortable stone.  His feet
leave no mark in the dust.
On the horizon, a lazurite bead
dangles blinding, bright,
beyond his reach.  From here
every pattern shows distinct,
complexity condensed,
flattened to surface and line.

The Moon's light hand
holds a palmful of dust to his face.
In its eddies, lines of men
launch upward, driven by water
and engineering, driven by the will
of politics and exploration.
They leave footprints and flags
but their names drown
beneath the sea america, none of them
as potent as his own.

He awakens, cold and clean-footed,
as the moon sinks behind
the forest canopy.  A diamond winks
from dark shadow and is gone.
He tells nobody what he has seen.

But the astronomers know.

Copyright © 2009, Sharon Mock

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Anders

Sharon Mock's fiction has appeared in magazines including Fantasy Magazine, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Realms of Fantasy.  "Alexander von Humboldt Visits the Moon" was the winner of the Lunar Maria poem contest and has been nominated for the 2010 Rhysling Award.  Though she lives in coastal Southern California, she has yet to witness a beaching of Humboldt squid.