ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Valentine’s Day is known for grand gestures. The private space flight company SpaceX is planning something truly big this week. 

The cargo on board the planned Feb. 14 launch will include a moon lander, expensive scientific hardware and a time capsule that’s a tribute to human creations. Included in that will be a piece of poetry written by a Rochester poet.

In Sarah Freligh’s world, words matter. That’s how it is when you’re a poet.

“Ultimately, you do want what you write to reach someone,” said Freligh. “To say, I hear you. I feel this. Because that’s what communication is.”

That’s the function of words. Though a poet never knows exactly how they’ll touch someone.

“No you don’t,” she said. “You don’t know where it’s going to land.”

That line about landing is pretty interesting, actually. In 2010, inspired by a radio broadcast segment on the birthday of Charlotte’s Web author E.B. White, she began writing a piece called “Wondrous.” The radio discussion turned to how White repeatedly broke down when trying to voice the audiobook version, during the part where Charlotte died. It reminded her of how her own mother would weep while reading the story.

”It’s probably the most autobiographical poem I’ve ever written,” said Freligh.

A line in “Wondrous” became the title of a poetry book, called “Sad Math” — a book which over the years has found quite an audience.

“It was the story that was communicating to me and brought me the memory of my mom,” she said. “So I went home and scribbled the poem.”

It's a poem that took a couple of years to publish — and to land. Fast forward to 2019, and Freligh says somebody shared the poem online, and it went viral. 

“And I started hearing from people who had read the poem, and said how much it meant to them,” she said.

One happened to be a Canadian scientist named Samuel Peralta. He asked permission to send her poem — to the moon.  

“And I thought, well that’s interesting,” she laughed. “The moon was an odd request, but I said yeah, OK.”

Freligh’s poem is part of a project called Lunar Codex, which is sending thousands of pieces of art and literature to the moon aboard the scheduled Valentine’s Day launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 — a time capsule headed 239,000 miles away.

“And I said sure, we'll send it to the moon,” said Freligh. “There’s nobody there. Nobody reads poetry here, so someday, who knows?“

A distant, unexpected landing spot. For words that matter.