Ned Balbo


The Lunar Deniers

It’s why you never see who’s in the helmet.
Those puffy suits might carry anyone.
Transmissions that traverse the infinite
are dubbed in. All the “astronauts” were gone

before we could track down the set’s location
(somewhere in the Southwest, probably),
the module one more Rube Goldberg contraption
built from stray junk, inexpensively.

Can they be “gone” from where they never were?
A flag, some footprints, and a golf ball’s arc
that traveled miles: one more white, cratered sphere
sent orbiting into the endless dark….

What did they find? White dust, and rocks galore.
Why spend so much to reach a barren place
we’ve no good cause to visit or explore?
What did they hope to salvage up in space—

rare metals, oil shale? We’re not convinced.
It’s far more likely no one went at all.
We’ve weighed the claims and video against
a greater likelihood—that every pale

cold desert we’ve been taught to call a “sea”
is more like quicksand: ship and crew would sink
straight down in miles of dust. Tranquility
is not what I’d feel, standing on that brink…

I’ve heard a rival quietly suggest
the missions really happened, possibly,
except the truth uncovered was suppressed
for fear of culture shock, catastrophe:

An alien race once flourished on the moon.
—How is it possible he’s so naïve?
Sound theory rests on evidence alone,
not wild conjectures no one should believe.

Ned Balbo‘s newest book, 3 Nights of the Perseidsreceived the 2018 Richard Wilbur Award. His earlier books include Upcycling Paumanok and The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems, awarded the Poets’ Prize and the Donald Justice Prize. The Cylburn Touch-Me-Nots, selected for the New Criterion Poetry Prize, will appear in late 2019. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowship, he recently spent three years as a visiting faculty member in Iowa State University’s MFA program in creative writing and environment. (More at