ON BUZZ ALDRIN’S BIRTHDAY

by MARIANNE CHAN


“Now I see the Moon in a far different light — not as a destination but more a point of departure . . .”

               -    Buzz Aldrin in his 2013 New York Times op-ed, “The Call of Mars”

 

1. 

With its thin atmosphere,
on the moon a footprint or movement
of dust may stay in the same place
for centuries. In 1969, 

when Buzz Aldrin considered
the moon a destination, 
he left his footprint, and it clings
to her face like a scar. On earth, 

the body changes. Gravity
yanks, the sun sheds its skin, 
people age. People, our bodies: 
always at a point of departure. 

But the mind
has its sundry destinations
onto which it lands to find
its source of water. 

 

2.

In 1997, I fly with my mother
to the Philippines to attend
my grandmother’s funeral. 
To my parents, America 

was never a destination, 
simply a place to rest one’s
feet. The Philippines was
the final stop, the inevitable

return home. But on earth,
home is a fluid thing, a shape-
shifter. At my grandmother’s
funeral, home is no longer

in the body she left behind,
powdered and rouged
to resemble life. My mother
sees this and weeps. We hear 

rumors of my grandfather’s ghost
lingering around their village,
during the hour of my grandmother’s
death to take her with him,

her point of departure. 

 

3.

But on earth, home is a fluid
thing, and like the moon, it changes
shape, size, and skin. Tonight, 
the moon looks as thin

as a sip of wine, communion  
bread. Buzz Aldrin is 86. 
Perhaps he prays everyday
for new planets, asteroids.

He prays retrospectively
to have been the first, 
rather than the second. 
When my parents fly back 

to the Philippines now, 
they stay for enough time
to return with mosquito bites
and jetlag. Then, they fly back 

to America where the atmosphere
is a home that keeps one praying
for peace and prosperity, 
keeps one longing for other moons.

 


4. 

In lamp light, I dream of moon-water. 
In moon light, my mother
dreams of her mother, who once dreamt
of new beaches, mangos, black sand. 

My mother dreams of her father too, 
who was destined to come
to America before he grew sick. 
And my father dreams of his grandparents 

who were destined to return to China, 
but stayed on the islands, 
because nations, like homes, 
are a fluid thing. In star light, 

Buzz Aldrin dreams of Phobos
and Deimos: lumpy Martian moons
dangling in the night’s sky. In earth-
light, moon stays awake, 

insomniac, and dreams of nothing, 
is merely present, as a reminder
of where we have been
and where we are destined to go.