Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rare Video: Poet James Dickey, "The Moon Ground"

by G. Jack Urso 

From the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.

James Dickey, poet and author best known for Deliverance, from which the 1972 film of the same name was made, performed his poem “The Moon Ground," originally written for Life magazine, for the American Broadcasting Network (ABC) on the occasion of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Dickey's spoken word performance of this poem was broadcast in the days following the first moon landing in 1969.

The complete poem is provided below. In transcribing the poem from Dickey’s performance it becomes clear he flubbed a line in the sixth stanza, indicated in bold-faced text and brackets. The stanza structure is my own interpretation.


"The Moon Ground," by James Dickey


You look as though you know me

though the world we came from

is striking you in the forehead

like Apollo


Buddy, we have bought the gods

We know what it is to shine

far off with Earth

We alone of all men can take off our shoes

and fly

one-sixth of ourselves we have gathered

both of us, under another one of us overhead

He is reading the dials

He is understanding time

to save our lives


You and I are in Earth-light

and deep Moon shadow

on magic ground of the dead new world

and we do not, but we could

leap over each other like children

in the universal playground of stone

but we must not play at being here

we must look

we must look for it

the stones are going to tell us

not the why, but the how of all things


Brother, your gold face flashes on me

it is the Earth

I hear your deep voice rumbling from the body

of its huge clothes

Why did we come here?

It does not say,

but the ground looms

and the secret of time

is lying within amazing reach


It is everywhere we walk

Our glass head shimmering with

absolute heat and cold

we leap solely along it

we will take back the very stones of time

and build it where we live

or in the cloud-stripped blue of home

will the secret crumble in our hands with air?


Will the Moon-plagued kill our children in their beds?

The human planet trembles in its black sky with what we do

I can see it hanging in the God-gold-only-brother of your face

We are this world

We are the only men

What hope is there at home

in the azure of breathe

or here with the stone-dead secret?

My matted clothes bubble around me

crackling with static and grave elegy

helplessly coming from my heart

and I say, I think something from high school,

I remember now, say it’s the glimmering landscape on the site

[and all the air of solemn stillness holds]

Earth glimmers and in its air color of solemn stillness holds it


Oh brother, Earth-faced god,


My eyes lined with unreachable tears

My breathe goes all over me and cannot escape

We are here to do one thing only

and that is, rock-by-rock, to carry the Moon

to take it back

our clothes embrace

We cannot touch

We cannot knell

We stare into the Moon dust

the Earth glazing ground

We laugh with the beautiful praise of static

We bend

We pick up stones


The audio and video quality is relatively low-grade due to the source video tape being nearly twenty years old and recorded off television. I present it here from my own archives as a relic of historical curiosity.

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