When Louis Armstrong Landed on the Moon
Quiz question: Who was the first person to set foot on the moon?
Student answer: Louis Armstrong
Picture his space helmet
to accommodate the trumpet.
He must have resembled
a Seussian cartoon:
that polished horn
sticking stiffly through the visor,
the aperture gasketed
tightly with polymers,
a protection against oxygen leaks,
for this man with elastic cheeks
needed all the air he could get
on that airless orb
to shatter silence across
the Sea of Tranquility.
His jaunty rendition
of “When the Saints Go Marching In”
bopped its best that day,
and those saints in their heaven
that hovered like a low ceiling
over his bobbing head
that their feet had gone to tapping
against narrow golden streets.
As he leapt from rock to rock
across that milky desert,
surely his heart skipped beats
in time to music. Back home,
Mission Control heard his gritty vibrato
crooning a capella
through the fuzz of the two-way
as he gazed backwards at the foggy earth:
I think to myself—
what a wonderful world.
By Jo Angela Edwins
It was the quiet class that term—thoughtful,
waiting to be taught, counting to themselves
syllables in poems, charting characters in prose—
who saw it happen, my words quickening
like the gait of a chased gazelle,
my skin gone flush
not from embarrassment, or at least not much
from that, but from the hives that grew
like mutant fruits across my face,
my neck, my hands. At first I thought it
the product of bitter pills for my heart,
a slow organ not sure how to beat precisely
in the dark last days of 2016.
I tried to ignore it, teachers like dancers
on a stage, sore joints wrapped to remind us
the show must go on.
Then one day my tongue swelling between my teeth
left me feeling I’d bitten too much.
I waved them away and went dashing through offices,
begging for antihistamines.
Who knows what the students must have thought
as, when next we gathered, we switched classrooms
to escape whatever inflamed my skin
and fired my bundled-up nerves?
A year later, when it happened again
in a different room, a different class, I pieced it
together: something about yellow chalk
didn’t sit well in my hands.
At that moment, I remembered the faces of the students
from the year before, watching rings cut through
my fingers, listening to words gone thick
as fat ham on a hungry man’s tongue.
That day, feeling sorry for me, they began to speak.
That day, they asked each other smart questions.
I could do nothing but listen,
and the songs their words sang were beautiful,
a balm to anyone’s overburnt ears.
By Jo Angela Edwins
Jo Angela Edwins is the poet laureate of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina and has received poetry awards from Winning Writers, Poetry Super Highway, and the South Carolina Academy of Authors. Her chapbook Play was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press. She lives in Florence, SC.