Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Moon is an Eyeball (Three Poems)

As a lead-in to "Lunar Innuendoes," a new piece by our poetry editor Eric Ormsby that's featured in this month's issue of The Walrus, I thought I'd put together a short retrospective of moon poems from across the centuries (or, at least, a retrospective of the moon poems from across the centuries that don't make you feel like braining yourself for grief. My apologies to Charlotte Smith). 

Of course the moon as an eye, and the moon as a participant in the dialogue of eyes that characterizes love poetry from the Renaissance on--along with converse metaphors of death, the cold and deadly virgin gaze, the moon as frigid huntress--those are all pretty old hat. So old as to be necrotic, as per Eric Ormbsy? I leave it to you.
Sonnet 31

Sir Philip Sidney (from Astrophil and Stella, 1591)

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies ! 
How silently, and with how wan a face ! 
What, may it be that even in heavenly place 
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries? 
Sure, if that long with love-acquainted eyes 
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case; 
I read it in thy looks;  thy languisht grace 
To me that feel the like, thy state descries. 
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me, 
Is constant love deemed there but want of wit? 
Are beauties there as proud as here they be? 
Do they above love to be loved, and yet 
      Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess? 
      Do they call virtue there, ungratefulness?

Sad Steps 

Philip Larkin (from High Windows, 1968)

Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon's cleanliness.

Four o'clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.
There's something laughable about this,

The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart
(Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below)

High and preposterous and separate -
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,

One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare

Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can't come again,
But is for others undiminished somewhere.

Lunar Innuendos

Eric Ormsby (from The Walrus, May 2012)

That bluish cataract milky with age,
the moon’s grey glimpse gauzed by night

Scuffed and ochreous as a child’s lost ball
discovered under last December’s ice,

With necrotic shadows wisping its forehead — 
the sudden pleasure of death after long pain —

Invents its spires and beginning belfries.
The moon is not cold cinder swathed

In the stark fixative of thermal glass
nor even speechless stone freckled with gleams

Nor a chill foundation for persuasive air.
Don’t be misled by its shrewd blue gaze:

The small brown bat can clasp it in his mouth.

Image: Huntress Diana With Bow and Greyhound, 1899-1900, Fountainbleu School. Artist unknown. 

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