The ringèd moon sits eerily
Like a mad woman in the sky,
Dropping flat hands to caress
The far world’s shaggy flanks and breast,
Plunging white hands in the glade
Elbow deep in leafy shade
Where birds sleep in each silent brake
Silverly, there to wake
The quivering loud nightingales
Whose cries like scattered silver sails
Spread across the azure sea.
Her hands also caress me:
My keen heart also does she dare;
While turning always through the skies
Her white feet mirrored in my eyes
Weave a snare about my brain
Unbreakable by surge or strain,
For the moon is mad, for she is old,
And many’s the bead of a life she’s told;
And many’s the fair one she’s seen wither:
They pass, they pass, and know not whither.
The hushèd earth, so calm, so old,
Dreams beneath its heath and wold—
And heavy scent from thorny hedge
Paused and snowy on the edge
Of some dark ravine, from where
Mists as soft and thick as hair
Float silver in the moon.
Stars sweep down—or are they stars?—
Against the pines’ dark etchèd bars.
Along a brooding moon-wet hill
Dogwood shine so cool and still,
Like hands that, palm up, rigid lie
In invocation to the sky
As they spread there, frozen white,
Upon the velvet of the night.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
Liz, I think her name was, the woman
my mother brought me to. We played
cards in her perfumed office: lavender,
tulips, bowl of wax fruit. I was ten
and wanted to die. I don’t know why
I’m here again. I lived. Obviously,
I lived. When I was older, but still
a child, not innocent, but foolish,
I looked up from my solitary
suffering. I learned the history
of men. I pointed to a spot
on the map they rendered. I said
then, then, built my common life
in a room at the end.
If it’s true, what they say, that poetry
is written with the knowledge of
and against death, that it is
a beacon, a bulwark, then Love,
I confess, I have been no poet.
Outside, a hawk circles overhead.
Four cops circle a woman
dressed all in red. I circle
the apartment as you sleep, happily
in the next room. Just this once
I want so desperately
to be proven wrong.
Copyright © 2023 by Carmen Awkward-Rich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 9, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.