High, Higher, Highest

                                                        Viewed from space, the world’s
                                                         impersonal.
                                                                              France appears,
                                                         but no Frenchmen.
                                                                                         Then Germany,
                                                         without one German.
                                                                                                   Regardless,
                                                         the richest man on earth
                                                         pays three hundred thousand
                                                         for a ten-minute flight by rocket
                                                         at three thousand miles per hour
                                                         to see everything below
                                                         from sixty-two miles straight up.
                                                         He’s making business plans
                                                         for space, beginning with Mars
                                                         and the moon. 
                                                                                       There’s ample
                                                         precedent to show how profit
                                                         motivates.
                                                                            After we mapped
                                                         the earth as we imagined it,
                                                         we matched what we imagined
                                                         with the world as it would look
                                                         when photographed from space.
                                                         We did the same with rivers,
                                                         lakes and seas.
                                                                                        We kept
                                                         the original names unchanged
                                                         for everything we saw
                                                         as far as we could fly. 
                                                         From seashores to the stratosphere
                                                         the world was seen as property
                                                         that men could bargain for and buy.
                                                         We see it now the same
                                                         while profiteers debate how best 
                                                         to advertise and sell the sky.

Related Poems

Mars Poetica

Imagine you're on Mars, looking at earth,
a swirl of colors in the distance.
Tell us what you miss most, or least.

Let your feelings rise to the surface.
Skim that surface with a tiny net. 
Now you're getting the hang of it.

Tell us your story slantwise,
streetwise, in the disguise
of an astronaut in his suit.     

Tell us something we didn't know
before: how words mean things
we didn't know we knew.

Visit from Mars

Nostradamus generally predicted the
future but he also shined a clear
light into the past and lived to
regret some of the visions he had
because they weren’t precise enough
and could have been used for nefarious
thoughts or perilous judgments since,
after all, he was a prophet though
he could have been called a false
prophet in the sense that both
Ezekiel and Isaiah speak of them
though I have to say that
he predicted the visit from Mars, orchestrated
by Orson Welles in 1938
in the town of Grover’s Mill, near Princeton
where everyone seemed to turn on
the radio five, ten, minutes after the
show started including my father and
mother who were packing suitcases
for a quick ride to the bluff
and a cave my father knew from
his early years nor did he ever
forgive Orson Welles for the broadcast
and wouldn’t talk to me about Touch of
Evil—the greatest—nor Citizen Kane,
mostly a little boring though
if you were a film buff you could
study it forever especially if
you hated Hearst for all the good reasons.
Einstein himself was interviewed
while walking the mulberry streets, especially
the right-hand side of Great Road, going south,
where the houses are windy and overpriced,
and he was so full of denial that anyone
with a radio antenna sticking out of his head
had been seen in any diner or hardware store,
Einstein whose bushy face had rubbed
many a pair of reddened lips,
Einstein whose famous name they stole for bagels.

Unfunky UFO

The first Space Shuttle launch got delayed until
Sunday, so we had to watch the Shuttle’s return
to Earth in class instead—PS113’s paunchy black
& white rolled in, the antennae on top adjusted
sideways & down for better reception. That same
day, Garrett stole my new pencil box. That same
day, Cynthia peed her jeans instead of going
to the bathroom & letting Garrett steal her pencil
box. Both of us too upset to answer questions about
space flight, so we get sent to the back of the class.
I smelled like the kind of shame that starts a fight
on a Tuesday afternoon. Cynthia smelled like pee
& every-day Jordache. The shuttle made its slick way
back to Earth, peeling clouds from the monochromatic
sky & we all—even the astronomically marginal—
were winners. American, because a few days before,
a failed songwriter put a bullet in the President
in the name of Jodie Foster. The shuttle looked
like a bullet, only with wings & a cockpit, & when
it finally landed, the class broke into applause
& the teacher snatched a thinning American flag
from the corner, waved it back & forth in honor
of our wounded President & those astronauts.