You won’t need your eclipse glasses
if you drive a thousand backroads miles
to the path of totality in the sand hills
by a train track in a field of wild sunflowers
as the western sky turns over itself
from blue to pink to black, a breaking wave
of darkness rolling over you – crickets
and frogs are singing! – and for two minutes
you look up in wonder at the dark side
of the moon and the halo of sun flaring
around it like windblown hair on fire.
You don’t really see the moon
because there is no reflected light,
just the shape of it blocking the sun.
You don’t see the black bear, either,
but you can tell it came last night
from the garbage strewn in the aspens by the lake,
torn and scattered like so many fucked up days.
Depression can be like this sometimes.
You don’t always see the black beast
or even smell it, but you feel its presence
in the shape of the absence of light.
Even dying is easier in the dark, you just stop
breathing in your sleep. Living again is harder –
sudden gasp unclenching the fist of your throat –
the pain that urges you onward.
They said it would be life-altering
when that midday darkness rolled over you,
but the past is resolute, a book you have read
all the way to the last word of right now,
and the future is just the vague outline of a bear
shambling in the fog that you drive through,
westward, in a race to see an eclipse.
Reading “A Globe Is Just an Asterisk
and Every Home Should Have an Asterisk,”
by Aimee Nehukumatathil, reminds me,
when she climbs the attic’s pull-down stairs
to find her old globe and then measures
with her fingers the distance to Indian
across the Pacific Ocean, of my own child-
hood globe with John Glenn’s three orbits
marked by a thin red stripe on clear tape
from takeoff to splashdown in the same
vast green sea until the tape peeled off
leaving me feeling small and trouble-prone.
We thought we’d meet on the moon,
vacation on an asteroid, and travel
the globe in our own private jet-cars.
Instead, I am a poet, strictly terrestrial,
gazing at the untenable moon, impossibly
far, signifying everything I could not reach.
I feel like red tape, unstuck, spooling down.
*September 2010, remembering the 1960s.
The moon is full of dreamy light,
close enough to pluck from the thin night
and place, a pearl, on your earthly ear
as all the while I, too, reflect,
and still you shine bright in my dreams
through the clair de lune waters of sleep.
…Dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a
Silver bow new-bent
In heaven, shall behold the
Night of our solemnities.
The sky as inlaid azulejo
tile, cool and gleaming.
Our love was a memory
from an undiscovered world,
filaments of dreams
woven beneath the snow.
The perfect still surface
of twilight was rippled
by the ululated cries
of the crane pair calling
to each other in the glow
of the solitary moon.
There was but one patch
of bare ground, a tangle
of frozen angel hair
crunching underfoot, crushed
by the weight of the wait.
I imagined your touch in the air
just beyond the limit of my skin,
a wind too weary, unstirred.
Mistress Moon, I feel your million-mile stare
over my shoulder as I cross the black plain
of night, but my weak Earth-bound eyes only
see the dumb grin on your pock-marked face.
You are the shape and heft of light and its absence.
In your wax and wane we know death and birth
and the mighty tug of sea-tide and womb-blood.
Tell me what you see in your blue-white sight.
Mice scurrying across the wind-spun snow,
the red-eyed wolf, the faint glow of my heart,
more ash than ember? Can you penetrate
the caul of deceit that smothers me, beneath
to the field of tiny stars tattooed across my chest?
Have you missed your mother these four billion
years, or did you long ago turn your best side
away from her, toward the cold fires of eternity?
Another poem about the view from a different perspective, also featured at VerseWrights.
Poets on the Moon
Two poets met on the moon. They stood on the acute rim of ink-black shadow and paper-white silence. There was no birdsong, no river wild, just the ghosts of old dogs willed to the object of their howling. They looked up at the blue Earth, where they saw themselves not as far apart as they had imagined. Without shifting their gaze, they clasped hand, fingers interlaced, heads empty as craters, hearts full of stardust, thirsty, beneath a bright, watery planet.