If we destroy our beautiful planet Earth with nuclear weapons, what then?
This special suite of poems by Aileen Ballantyne, taken from her collection, Taking Flight, published by Luath Press in 2019, shows the beauty and fragility of the earth, and even more importantly, the power of our relationships as human beings.
Some of the poems are written from the viewpoint of that very small and select group - people who've gone to the moon. As Bill Anders, who took the famous Earthrise picture above, said: After all the training and studying we'd done as pilots and engineers to get to the moon safely and get back, as human beings to explore moon orbit, what we really discovered was planet Earth.
We are planet Earth. We have been here all along and yet what have we discovered? How to blow ourselves up? destroy other people? Is that the summit of human achievement? Or its endpoint?
In the UK we live in a country which on Friday 22nd January 2021 will be in flagrant breach of international law banning nuclear weapons. Will we join with our fellow human beings in opposing arms or will we continue to put power before people?
We hold the future of the world in our hands and it is up to us to choose.
Starlight from Saturn
I gathered up all of the waves,
the fountains of Ganymede’s oceans,
flew through the ice-rings to Saturn’s lost moon,
wet-faced and crying wind and rain.
I carved out a great crystal mirror: a prism
to shine back the past – a bright-flickered film
of poppies in iris-blue skies,
nectar-bees drowsed in the haze
of a day when mother wove coral
and seaweed and starfish and pearls,
and father found dolphins and sperm-whales
and fish flying high on an indigo sea
in the blue luminescence of Earth
that breathed once, a moment ago.
Extract from: Voiceprints of an Astronaut: Last Men on the Moon I-V
(for twelve who walked there 1969-72)
That last night, when we slept on the moon,
I woke to the sphere of the Earth, suspended,
a glassmaker’s bauble blown
from the lips of a child: a light
in the dark of a dark with no end.
I want just to touch my own planet,
to hold each last mote of her dust,
safe-cupped and close in my palm.
If you could lie here with me
in the ash of the moon’s graphite-grey
you’d erase not one single Earth-line,
nor speck of coloured time,
nor bee’s breath-weight of wind
with the hard edge of your hand.
On the terrae of the moon,
tired of coring rocks,
I slug moon-stones into space,
do giant bunny-hops on film,
imagining her laughter
as my camera rolls.
And in the stillness of moon-nights
I feel the tugging of the chord
to Amy’s yellow nightlight
on the table in her room
and I trace out Amy's name
in grey-dead dust,
and I know when we come back,
to our footprints
and the stiffened flag,
Amy’s name will still be there
in the sands without wind,
Sleeping on the Moon
In the blackness of the blackness of the vacuum
I hear my spine unfurl,
singing in its lightness.
I try to sleep on the dark side of the moon,
weightless in my hammock,
as we travelled through the black
I saw light
each flame a fire
each fire a man,
Nomad in Desert,
holes of life on Earth.
I am thread
loosed from loom,
tug of chord
breath of womb
and I breathe my air,
sink my spine
in its lightness, singing
hammock-deep into dark,
and sleep now
I stand here with the crowd
at Cape Canaveral now and then,
remembering that wet-ash taste of the moon:
the silver lunar module
rises up on film,
an image –
running backwards –
of a bug splatted at full throttle
on the windscreen of my car,
its spindle-legs askew.
Now and then, in winter sun,
I feel the thud of re-entry
boom and judder through my feet,
and I know they are back.
At home in my backyard
in the cold of winter
I look up:
hear my spine clicking,
remembering its lightness,
and on the silver disc above,
I know just where, in the windless stillness
I traced out Amy's name with my finger
in grey moon-dust.
All the above poems (Starlight from Saturn and extracts from Voiceprints of an Astronaut are from Aileen Ballantyne’s first collection of poetry, ‘Taking Flight,’ by Luath Press, October 2019.
deirdre ni mhathuna
Cailleach na Cruinne
Friday 22nd January 2021, the day our project goes live, is a historic day, a day when the use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons has finally been banned throughout the world.
Declaring a law has been passed is very different from enforcing it and many countries, including our own, will refuse to obey it.
But a gauntlet has been thrown down to the warmongers, a message to the most powerful nations in the world - they are not above scrutiny.
Dove Tales would like to thank the many wonderful artists in all disciplines who have contributed to this project.
The generous photographers of Pixabay, who offer their images for free use.
Thank you for reading our work.
EDITED BY JEAN RAFFERTY AND RAY EVANS
DESIGN AND LAYOUT BY LARA DINGEMANS
COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, DOVE TALES