“ASTRONAUT GOES FROM MIGRANT FIELDS TO OUTER SPACE”

For José M. Hernández

The boy squatting with a wood and wire crate
In Salinas has finally risen
Above his station, California almost
Beautiful from this distance. Now when he bends
To the heavy glass he’s hurtling through
Vacuum cold as night on the desert
When coyotes bring the families across
In rust gnawed pick ups and then on foot.
He’s glossing over vast tracts of years, entire lives
In dirt and of dirt, obligations. He orbits
His parents talking low in their bed,
His mother’s sorrow the high pitch of rain
Against the hut’s metal blinds. In zero
Gravity the work is easy; nothing weighs
On the heart. He rides openly, needn’t hide
In back with shovels under a tarp.
The earth is no longer soil but rainbow blue
And round as fruit. His itinerant efforts pay back
In stars. Now heaven is mestizo, offers
Fine shades, not just Milky Way black and white.
Let the good news fall gently back to earth.
Let today’s harvest be measured not in pounds
But raised eyes, and miles, and light.

                                        –David Moolten

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32 comments
  1. It’s so tightly interwoven, it’s hard to pick a line or two, though I really like “Now heaven is mestizo”. I enjoyed the whole play on space: cold, weightless, dark

  2. rallentanda said:

    What a lovely poem with some tender moments i.e.the immigrant having to hide with the shovels… parents whispering in low voices and his mother’s sorrow
    Lovely lines…
    His itinerant efforts paid in stars…
    rainbow blue and round as fruit
    Let the good news fall gently back to earth(slightly Shakespearean…it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath)
    Well done .I enjoyed this .

  3. Beautiful imagery, David. Dirt and sky. Heaven and earth. Real people making their way through both. Very powerful!

    • davidmoolten said:

      I am grateful for your feedback.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Many thanks for letting me know.

  4. I don’t know if I can add more superlatives except to say that this is the type of poem I like best, the story of a life, condensed to watershed moments. Loved it.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks for the feedback, Cynthia.

  5. Derrick said:

    Hello David,

    I’m with Cynthia! This is a life I can understand, told with such beauty.

    “In zero
    Gravity the work is easy; nothing weighs
    On the heart.”

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Derrick,

      I’m grateful for your comments.

  6. The prompt was very good to you, I’d say. This is a poem that invites multiple readings.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Dave. Yes, the prompt was open-ended but still provided direction, the best kind.

  7. Pingback: Via Negativa

  8. joannejohns said:

    Beautiful poem – the last three lines especially so.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you for letting me know.

  9. djvorreyer said:

    His mother’s sorrow the high pitch of rain
    Against the hut’s metal blinds.

    This is a wonderful poem, but I adore these lines – it provides a specific background to his story that could, in less deft hands, be a “pull-up-by-the-bootstraps” cliche. Good work.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks so much. It was and is a great story, which helped. So much of the news is not terribly inspiring, but this was.

  10. Linda said:

    I really liked the way your poem played back and forth from earth to space and back again. It was a very enjoyable read. “In zero gravity nothing weighs on the heart.” Very insightful thinking!

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you. There’s something about the physics of space that’s eerily poetic, in spite of itself.

    • davidmoolten said:

      I appreciate you’re telling me.

  11. nathan said:

    “Rainbow blue and round as a fruit” — one of many beautiful moments in this poem.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks for taking the time to read it Nathan. Though I have only the benefit of pictures, from an astronaut’s perspective there’s nothing more beautiful than the earth seen from such distance. It’s too bad things aren’t more beautiful close up.

  12. A radiant praise song for a worthy contemporary hero. The poem has so much to admire. The line breaks do so much skillful poetic work — risen / Above his station; orbits / His parents; nothing weighs / On the heart. I hope you share the poem with the astronaut — find his email address. I’ve sent poems to people about whom I’ve written, and they’ve been most grateful. Beautiful work.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Therese, thank you for your praise. I like your idea about sending the poem to the astronaut. I’ve always been a bit shy about that kind of thing, but maybe I’ll get up the nerve.

  13. wayne said:

    well written…well said…and “far out”….worth of another read David

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks so much Wayne.

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