The Moon as Absence and Desire
Scythe moon, blade cleaving sky, body
mostly hidden, but present, large
and undeniable as the white disc of pain
being hammered so it burns with friction
at the end of his spine's frayed string.
Earlier, he sat in a bar with no clocks
and naked girls onstage, drinking bourbon
he gets free for figuring the owner's taxes.
Blurred by whiskey and pain, the bodies
in front of him appeared untouched and mysterious
as the moon. He envied the loose flow of muscle
in one girl who spun upside down on the pole,
legs scissoring air, the plane of her back
rippling the way wind bends a field's high grass,
ancestor to the ocean that once shifted
above the fields that make an island
of his empty house. There are creeks he wades
to find teeth, bits of vertebrae, remains
of what came inland and died.
Years of addition, subtraction, moving decimals have
taught him no sum is final, that all
value remains relative. Sleepless, he stares
at tonight's infinite moon while memory slips
from the girl in the bar to a circus acrobat
he saw when he was eight or nine, who seized
the end of a rope in her teeth and was raised
in a spotlight's dusty glare , above
the suddenly silent crowd until she hung,
the only thing illuminated in all the dark tent.
The moon-hard bend in her back, an arch
strong enough to support bridges, city gates,
mocks his clumsy bending, the muscles fisted
across his back before he straightened,
all the planets of his spine slipped out of favor.
Balance eroded, the way riverbanks give
in floods, shelves of sand and gravel dissolved
into a million rumbling fragments.
His plan had been to get home, creep inside
careful as a tightrope walker and collapse
into a heating pad and pain pills,
but the electricity was off, the bills
and past due notices all neglected
in the three months since she moved out,
life emptied of sex, soft kisses, warm kitchen smells.
So he drove from a house slowly being filled by dark
to a bar that has no name to watch girls
chewing gum, sporting their first tattoos, dance,
incandescent with speed, eyes locked onto heavens
more distant than the moon he sees cradled
outside his uncurtained window. When every eye
was fixed on her, when no cough or cy
broke the tent's deep quiet, the woman
hanging from the rope began to turn,
slowly, then faster, until her body was
a spangled blur, perfect in its distance.
The moon's talent is subtraction: trees carved
to shadow, stones shaved to a gleaming edge.
Grass lies slicked to oil-black essence.
The fingernail of moon that divides the sky
makes it whole, the way a creek's dark sand gains
context from housing history's mute remnants.
He could have shown one of those nameless girls
the star-pale scar between two knuckles,
fossil of the night he tried to make visible
the heart's silent rage. Blood fell
like absolution that would not come,
and he understood that no number and no pain
will ever be final. The woman who left
will call, her voice so distant she might live
in the shell he takes from the table to feel
its cold curve. His back will be straight by then,
his house filled with light, her absence
simply one mark in the debit column
of a ledger with no permanent balance.
The moon will wane and swell above
dumb waves of dirt while the dancing goes on.
And on some nights, like this one, the bar's owner
will stare out his office window, considering
the sign his accountant suggested he buy
and the name he might give this place.
- Al Maginnes (from Valparaiso Poetry Review)