Poem introduction

This is an extract from my poem ‘The Man in the Moon’ based on the seventeenth-century novel by Francis Godwin. The hero has been cast away on a desert island and tries to escape by building a flying machine powered by wild geese. The geese have flown him to the top of a mountain, but this is only the first stage of their annual migration to the moon.

Lunar Passage

from: The Man in the Moon

 

iii. Lunar Passage

 

Earth carried on in the gaps between the clouds,

blue and green, fabulous with vapours.

How had I lived there? How long

would I be falling?

 

The lines tensed. The geese rose above me

like a surge of white weather.

It was their season

 

to vanish into the sky,

and I went with them.

 

~

 

Then we were elsewhere. I felt the earth give up.

We moved too fast for breath, but the lines

had gone slack now, the wings stopped.

We were still flying

 

in a windless brightness that faded

the stars to milk and water.

Motes sparkled round us:

 

swarms of cuckoos and swallows

on their lunar flight.

 

~

 

 

 

Looking back I saw the globe where I was born,

smudged with forests, doodled with coastlines.

That flashing sheet of metal

was the Atlantic.

 

That pear with a bite out of one side,

must be Africa sliding

east as the world turned,

 

that oval – America,

just as the maps show.

 

~

 

We sailed that lukewarm afternoon that had forgotten

how to get dark, beyond rain or snow,

while the world’s engine turned it

twelve times behind us,

 

and ahead the moon became a place:

the dark patches were country,

furred with trees and grass,

 

the gold light came from the sun

striking the oceans.


from Muscovy (Faber, 2013), © Matthew Francis 2013, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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Recordings

Matthew Francis

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1Beestorm in West Middlesex

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2Poem Without Words

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3From Occupied City: The Cathedral

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4from Blizzard: 1, 2, 7, 10, 13, 16, 17, 29

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5Dragons

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6from Ocean: Slope

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7Autumn Noir

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8What the Cuttlefish Do

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9By The Forge

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10Of Travelling by Land

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11Of Inns

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12Of Foreign Tongues

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13Of the Market

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14Of the Phoenix

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15Of the Vegetable Lamb

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16Of a Manner of Disposing of the Dead

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17Mandeville’s Farewell

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18Lunar Passage

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19Familiar Spirit

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20The Description of Muscovy

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21Things that Make the Heart Beat...

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Books by Matthew Francis