Old moon rising over the Hotel David,
silvering the storied streets of Jerusalem.
Holy city, alleluia! Holy city.
Adolescent moon waving seaward beyond
Key West, glittering the palm-swayed beaches.
Acetylene moon, processing past Paterson’s
brick silk mills as they drowsed
in the evening air, half aware of the steady
roar of the Great Falls, where we played among
the rusting iron fences when we were children.
Drunken moon, that night I drove my Beta
Sigma brothers through the Bronx streets
home to their apartments, swerving left, right,
left as I sang some inane insane song, and—
thanks to you, my watchdog Guardian
Angel—have lived to talk about it.
Somnolent moon high over El Capitan, where
once a grizzly snuffled outside our cabin,
the kids thank God asleep. Moon higher
still over the Wilbur Cross Parkway,
forming a refulgent silver lake as we drove
north toward Hartford and beyond.
Brother moon, Br’er Moon, tangled
in a briar patch of clotheslines, an acrid sweetness
of baked tar coating the buckled roof
of my long-lost crumbling brownstone tenement
which once faced the beckoning diamond lights
of the Chrysler. Antediluvian moon, moon
older than Moses, older than Ashurbanipal,
than Adam even, you, the lesser light the Lord
created on the fourth day, silvering the earth.
Moon, dear moon, the comfort you bring
each time I catch you as you slowly process past,
left to right, but steadier than I was then,
royal moon choired by katydids, or peeking
through the glittered winter ice. Catch you, ah!,
whenever I climb the creaking stairs in darkness.
In truth, you seem to look down and wink at me
through the stained-glass window when I reach
the landing with its giant potted eucalyptus.
Oh I know they say you are a floating rock
pockmarked with shadow craters, half of you
forever hidden from us in darkness. Know too
there are black and white videos taken by men,
brave men surely, and all gone now, such is
our common fate, even for those few who reach
for stars, and who, half floating in their awkward
necessary lifelines, dream of touching you.
Moon, old moon, dear moon, I beg you
answer me when I call out to you,
as I have from the eerie hospital bed,
or over the lit dashboard of my car, or from
the north room where my love is sleeping now,
here next to me, as she has for fifty years
and more, constant companion, ancient
moon, as we go silvering on, alleluia.
From Ordinary Time (Slant Books, 2020) by Paul Mariani. Copyright © 2020 by Paul Mariani. Used with the permission of the author.