Impelled by Wall Street and the Pentagon,
and the vanity of Presidents,
the astronauts had seemed to sail beyond
experience – but we TV millions watched
live ‘Old Glory’ stiffen above us;
heard Nixon speak; saw Aldrin at attention.
Meanwhile, oblivious, the Vietcong
were waiting patiently in their tunnels.
The day of the moon landing we walked up
Bidston Hill to the Observatory,
where my great grandfather – who had captained
coffin ships to Boston – in his old age
studied the tides. Our little girl played on slabs
of ice-smoothed sandstone, and recited
‘The moon has a face like the clock in the hall’.
Birkenhead below lay sharply in sunlight –
maritime, sooty, long in decline.
Above the scrofulous cities of the earth
the contraptions spin like discarded coins.
We are trashing the universe, and time
is no shorter than it ever was for us
of the broken countries, which corrupt,
like mouths of rotten teeth, all they encroach.