Wonder and the Grandeur of the Universe as the Antidote to Human-Manufactured Bias and Divisiveness: Marilyn Nelson’s Stunning Poem “The Children’s Moon”

In one of her love letters, Margaret Fuller– who laid the foundation of American feminism, promoted for black voting rights generations before females won the vote, and thought in every fiber of her being that genius is “common as light” when offered the chance– wrote of “that finest reality, the Moon.” A century, a Civil War, and 2 World Wars after her, amidst the golden age of space exploration, the terrific Italian scientist, humanist, and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi thought about the spiritual worth of our cosmic dreams in his gorgeous essay “The Moon and Man,” insisting that “for evil or good, we are a single individuals: the more we end up being mindful of this, the less hard and long will be humanitys progress toward justice and peace.”

In my navy shirtwaist dress and three-inch heels, my pearl clip-ons and recently red-rinsed curls, I smoothed on lipstick, lipstick-marked my ladies, saluted and held thumbs-up to my beloved Mel, and drove myself to school for the first day.
Over the schoolyard a silver lozengedissolved into the early mornings blue cauldron.Enter twenty seven-year-old white children.Look, kids, I said as they discovered their desks: The kidss moon! A special all the best sign!
We vowed obligation, and calmly prayed.George Washington saw sternly from his frame.I turned to the chalkboard and composed my name.I believed I heard, Shes the REAL instructors maid!I thought I heard echoes of history.
However when I turned, every child in the roomhad one hand up, asking, What is the kidss moon?

Marilyn Nelson shines a sidewise gleam on that finest, most unifying truth in her stunning poem “The Children Moon,” written in the voice of her own mother– among the first black ladies to teach at an all-white primary school, spearheading a class of twenty white second-graders at an Air Force base school in Kansas four months after Brown v. Board of Education.

Enhance with Nelsons entrancing efficiency of her existential-scientific poem “Faster than Light” at the third annual Universe in Verse and appreciate her On Being discussion with Krista Tippett (who likewise read an existential-mathematical poem in the exact same show), then review other titanic poets of our time performing their own work: Marie Howe reading “Singularity,” Ross Gay reading “Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt,” Elizabeth Alexander checking out “The Venus Hottentot,” U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith checking out from “My God, It has plenty of Stars,” and Jane Hirshfield reading “Today, Another Universe.”

Performed at the On Being event in 2018 and released a year previously in Mrs. Nelsons Class (town library)– the conceptually brilliant anthology Nelson modified, featuring personality poems by twenty various poets, each taking on the voice of among the bodies in her moms class to picture what the experience of making history together might have been like– the poem is a sensational suggestion that the human capacity for wonder at the splendour of deep space and the natural world, a capacity “common as light” amongst all of us, will always eclipse the capacity for diminishment and divisiveness along synthetic lines, lines drawn not by the reality of nature but by the selectively consensual non-reality we call culture, lines that restrict and restrict and desecrate what is finest and largest in our nature.