Each lunar sunrise they say,
as though their world is starting over,
“Come, let us reason together,”
and off they go, but not too far off.

Reclined in craters, they utter syllogisms
to each other, love songs made of feldspar.
They trace formulae in jagged moon dust
with the tips of their tapered fingers.

They are wearing togas as though awaiting
Europeans from the Age of Enlightenment.
They are crowned by idiosyncratic mathematics.
Calm pervades their minds.

They disturb nothing. There is nothing to do.
There is no work for their bodies, nothing
to acquire. Through semi-translucent skin
with a gray sheen, they feed directly on the sun,

turning light into ongoing thought.
A few steps beyond their usual haunts lies
the pewter grit of the surface, monochromatic
and uninterrupted for a hundred million years.

Late every afternoon, their philosophy
begins its disintegration. Logic goes
to extremes, lines of thought play out.
The premises reach uncreated places.

The edifice flickers, fails, disappears.
They stash their bodies in the crevices.
Night comes upon them. Cosmic wind
blows through them. They lodge themselves,

and their posterity, in a hall of dreams,
and become like invisible fish, visiting
impossible things in black, unseen seas.
Meaning foams about them in semiotic bits.

Thoughts are rendered into proteins.
A softness overtakes their minds, like breath.
Then, when the rod of sunlight strikes,
they rise with a vague reluctance.

“Come,” they say. The first argument
of the morning quickly reasons away,
and they forget who they are.

Click here to listen to a reading of “Selenites” (reading by Diane Severson Mori)

John Philip Johnson would be an astronaut if he could. He has had poems or stories published in such places as Rattle, Mythic Delirium, Apex, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, Ted Kooser’s newspaper column, and also at the Poetry Foundation. He has an Elgin-nominated comic book of graphic poetry, Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town, available at He would go to Mars if he could. His website is