Open Letter to Neil Armstrong

In honor of the 45th anniversary of the moon landing of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, I offer up the complete text of my poem Open Letter to Neil Armstrong. It can be found in my book In Search of Midnight through

by “Mighty” Mike McGee

Dear Neil Armstrong,

I write this to you as she sleeps down the hall
I need answers that I think only you might have

When you were a boy and space was simple science fiction
when flying was merely a daydream between periods of history and physics
when gifts of moon dust to the one you loved could only be wrapped in your imagination

Before the world knew your name
Before it was a destination:
What was the moon like from your backyard?

Your arm: strong, warm and wrapped across her shoulders
Both of you gazing up from your back porch
summers before your distant journey

But upon landing on the moon
as the Earth “rose” over the Sea of Tranquility
did you look for her?

What was it like to see our planet and know that everything you could be
all you could ever love and long for was
just floating before you?

Did you happen to write her name in the dirt, when the cameras weren’t looking?
Or surround both of your initials with a heart for alien life to study a million years from now?

What is it like to love someone so distant?
What words did you use to bring the moon back to her, and
what did you promise in the moon’s ear about the girl back home?

Can you teach me how to fall from the sky?

I ask you all of this not because I doubt your feet/feat
I just want to know what it’s like to go somewhere no man had ever been
just to find that she wasn’t there
To realize your moonwalk could never compare to the steps that lead to her

I now know the flight home means more

Every July I think of you
I imagine the summer of 1969
How lonely she must’ve felt while you were gone
You never went back to the moon and
I believe that’s because it doesn’t take rockets to get you where you belong
I see that in this woman down the hall and sometimes she seems so much further
But I’m ready for whatever steps I must take to get to her

I’ve seen so many skies and the moon always looks the same
So I gotta say, that rock you landed on has got nothing
on the rock of mine she’s landed on

You walked around, took samples and left
But she’s built a fire, cleaned up the place, and I hope she decides to stay
Because on my rock, we can both breathe

Mr. Armstrong, I don’t have much
Many times have I been upside-downtrodden
But with these empty hands comes a heart that is full more often than the moon
She’s becoming my world, pulling me into orbit and
now I know I may never find life outside of hers

Shouldn’t I give her everything I don’t have yet?
So, for her, I would go to the moon and back

But not without her

No! We’d claim the moon for each other with flags made from sheets down the hall
And I’d risk it all to kiss her under the light of Earth, the brightness of home
but I can do all of that and more
right here, wherever she is

And when we gaze up, with her arms around me
I will not promise her gifts of moon dust or flights of fancy

Instead, I will gladly give her all the Earth she wants
in return for all the Earth she is
the sound of her heartbeat and laughter
and all the time it takes to learn to fall from the sky
down the hall and
right into love

I’d do it everyday
If I could just to land next to her

…1 small step for a man
But she’s one giant leap for my kind