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.
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