The Old Woman & the Moon
for Ernestine Hemingway
She was an old woman who fished alone
from a skiff in the Sea of Tranquility
and she had gone eighty-five years now
without a fish. Not even a dusty rock
bass had struck her night crawler though
the worm was fat and finely bristled
and covered in slime and interminable
in the airless waste. Her neck was thin
and creased with lines the sun had written
on skin gone fine as paper but this
was not the first thing one noticed
upon seeing the old woman in the skiff.
No, it was her eyes that were the color
of the moon and cheerful in the reflected
light like two bone-white plates waiting
for sliced cake on a table. They were
quietly empty and waiting for something
good, and they were not at all defeated.
In the skiff there was a bottle of wine.
It was the wine of the country and tasted
of mineral and sunlight and the green
glass of the bottle was beaded with drops
of condensation, which was an odd thing,
thought the woman, because the moon
is an arid place and the air is thin as hope,
the hopes of a widow casting her line
with its moist worm into the scattered
gravel so that bits of gray dust clung
to its meatiness. The old woman pulled
the cork out with her teeth and began
to drink and set the bottle on the bench
and rested one hand on a wooden thwart
and said, The wine is good. It tastes of
the country and of loneliness and also
the moon, which is where I fish because
this is the thing that I was born to do.
Copyright © 2018 Michael Bazzett. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the authors.