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Articles of Exploration

ISSUE:  Winter 1998

One small step for man,
one giant leap for mankind.

 Neil Armstrong,
     as he stepped onto the moon.
He sing-songed it to himself as he studied the maps
of the Sea of Tranquility, he spoke it out loud in the shower—

 One small step for a man,
 one giant leap for mankind

but up there on the moon
he blew it, he got so caught up with getting down the ladder safely
he left out the rotten little a.

We knew what he meant, and he knew
we knew it, but he would have slapped his forehead
if he could have, and there was no going back up the ladder.

He doesn’t give interviews, doesn’t attend celebrations
or go to reunions; maybe in the midst of all that perfection
something in him meant to screw it up. He’ll never know:
Who was Deep Throat? Did Oswald act alone?

Years later, when Viking landed on Mars, nothing was said:
the camera turned on, a door opened, and the machine
went to work. We could have given it speech, we could have
had it say—flawlessly—

 One small step for a machine,
 one giant leap for machinekind

but words weigh too much, and without a human to say them,
they just aren’t worth it.


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