Mt. Rainier National Park
We are standing on the access road to Paradise.
Seven miles from the gates. We are standing
on the centerline, the moon on our faces, the mountain
at our backs. Were it less than full, we might see,
in its northwest sector, the Land of Snow
and the Ocean of Storms. Because it is full, we can see,
just over our shoulders, how the Ramparts climb up
toward the glaciers. We might see near the Sea
of Showers, the dark-floored crater of Plato.
How the glaciers, just over our shoulders—
Pyramid, Kautz, Nisqually—shine. How the spreading
bedrock shines. As if we are starting again,
we have placed—there—on the moon’s widening shadow
Kepler, Copernicus, Archimedes, Aristoteles.
And opened a Sea of Fertility. A Sea of Nectar.
As if we imagine a harvest.
No sound it seems, on the slopes, in the firs.
Nothing hoots. Nothing calves. Although
through Nisqually’s steep moraine, rocks
must be shifting, grasses cinching their eternal grip.
Look, in the blackness, how the moon’s rim glows,
like a ring from an ancient astrolabe.
We are standing in the roadway. There is nothing
on our faces but the glow of refracted dust.
At our backs, the mountain is shifting, aligning itself
with the passing hours. First ice. Then stone.
Then the ice-green grasses. We are standing
on the centerline aligning ourselves with the earth.
We are standing on the access road as if we imagine
an eternal grip. Look—they are rotating on, now.
Already a pale crescent spreads
past the Known Sea and the Muir Snowfields—
as if we are starting…—past
the Trail of Shadows, the ice-green grasses,
the seas of nectar, the craters of rest,
the gardens of nothing but passing hours.
Copyright © 2016 by Linda Bierds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 21, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.
About this Poem
"Several years ago, I watched a lunar eclipse from Mount Rainier National Park. This summer, as I hiked deep into the ash-gray trough that once held the Paradise glacier, I thought of the mountain/moon exchange that lies at the heart of the poem."
Linda Bierds was raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and attended the University of University of Washington, where she received her BA in 1969 and her MA in 1971.
Date Published: 2016-12-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/lunar-eclipse