Just before Mariner 9 went into orbit around Mars, Ray Bradbury appeared on a panel with Arthur C. Clarke and other authors and scientists. His contribution was this short poem that links the dream of conquering space with the dream of immortality. I know many writers will miss his inspiring and good-hearted encouragement.
“If Only We Had Taller Been”
The fence we walked between the years
Did bounce us serene.
It was a place half in the sky where
In the green of leaf and promising of peach
We'd reach our hands to touch and almost touch the sky,
If we could reach and touch, we said,
'Twould teach us, not to ,never to, be dead.
We ached and almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough.
If only we had taller been,
And touched God's cuff, His hem,
We would not have to go with them
Who've gone before,
Who, short as us, stood tall as they could stand
And hoped by stretching, tall, that they might keep their land,
Their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they, like us, were standing in a hole.
O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measured out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam's finger forth
As on the Sistene Ceiling,
And God's hand come down the other way
To measure man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever's Day?
I work for that.
Short man, Large dream, I send my rockets forth
between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Good is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We've reached Alpha Centauri!
We're tall, O God, we're tall!