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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