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 the promise of peach, we reached our hand and almost touched the sky.
If we could reach out and touch, we said, it would teach us not to, never to, be dead.
We ate, and almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough.
If only we had tallied then, and touched God’s cuff, his hem
We would not have to go with them, with those who had gone before
Who, short as us, stood tall as they could and hoped that by stretching tall that they could keep their land their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they like us were standing in a hole.
Oh Thomas! Will a race one day stand really tall, across the void across the universe and all?
And measure all with rocket fire. at last put Adam’s finger forth as on the Sistine 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 ,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 across the universal mall
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
My God! We’re tall!