Two Lovely Things, Briefly Noted

1. My first short story, ‘Lay Down The Dark Layers’, has been published by the Irish literary magazine, The Stinging Fly (hurrah!)

2. This anthology—Winged: New Writing on Beesis essential and beautiful and its existence in the world makes me happy (about some humans and all bees).

FlyBee

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I still had two friends, but they were trees…

The Two Trees
by Larry Levis

My name in Latin is light to carry & victorious.

I’d read late in the library, then
Walk out past the stacks, rows, aisles

Of books, where the memoirs of battles slowly gave way
To case histories of molestation & abuse.

The black windows looked out onto the black lawn.

~

Friends, in the middle of this life, I was embraced
By failure. It clung to me & did not let go.
When I ran, brother limitation raced

Beside me like a shadow. Have you never
Felt like this, everyone you know,

Turning, the more they talked, into . . .

Acquaintances? So many strong opinions!

And when I tried to speak—
Someone always interrupting. My head ached.
And I would walk home in the blackness of winter.

I still had two friends, but they were trees.
One was a box elder, the other a horse chestnut.

I used to stop on my way home & talk to each

Of them. The three of us lived in Utah then, though
We never learned why, me, acer negundo, & the other
One, whose name I can never remember.

“Everything I have done has come to nothing.
It is not even worth mocking,” I would tell them
And then I would look up into their limbs & see
How they were covered in ice. “You do not even
Have a car anymore,” one of them would answer.

All their limbs glistening above me,
No light was as cold or clear.

 

I got over it, but I was never the same,

Hearing the snow change to rain & the wind swirl,
And the gull’s cry, that it could not fly out of.

In time, in a few months, I could walk beneath
Both trees without bothering to look up
Anymore, neither at the one

Whose leaves & trunk were being slowly colonized by
Birds again, nor at the other, sleepier, more slender

One, that seemed frail, but was really

Oblivious to everything. Simply oblivious to it,
With the pale leaves climbing one side of it,
An obscure sheen in them,

And the other side, for some reason, black bare,
The same, almost irresistible, carved indifference

In the shape of its limbs

As if someone’s cries for help
Had been muffled by them once, concealed there,

Her white flesh just underneath the slowly peeling bark

—while the joggers swerved around me & I stared—

Still tempting me to step in, find her,

And possess her completely

For now, Portland Oregon

A short essay I wrote is up on Orion Magazine’s website.

“My husband wants land. He digs through websites, hoping to uncover a patch we could afford. I want it too but it hurts to see him look at places someone else will live on, or subdivide. It’s not our time, yet. We plant pennies in our bank account and watch them grow too slowly. In the meantime, we live in a condo in the city….”     [continue reading at Orion]

The Big Pink in a Portland Mist.

I love The Place Where You Live feature; I’m glad they brought it back.

And I do love Portland, Oregon—even on days like this one.

The Harvest Moon

Tonight, the full moon will rise to meet Uranus in the Northern night-sky.

I will be somewhere, watching. I have no vegetable garden or crops to gather, but I will think of all the things that I am ready to reap.

The Harvest Moon

The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can’t sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!’ and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.

– by Ted Hughes.

The Man in the Moon & The Moon in Man

I came across some lovely Moon Lore a couple of weeks ago, a Victorian collection of superstition and mythology, written just eighty-four years before man set foot upon it. How sadly serendipitous.

Neil Armstrong passed away today. Imagine. Most of us have only one moment when we leave this world and step into the dark unknown. Imagine looking back on a life that contains intimate memories of the moon.

I don’t think I can.

Footprint on the Moon

The moon is as incomprehensible to me now as it was to those who watched, transfixed, that giant leap of discovery and investigation in 1969. Perhaps one day it will seem as common as a spoon, but I doubt it.

I like to think that we won’t ever know so much that we can completely disregard these gorgeous myths and legends and fancy. These are some I especially like, mostly from Moon Lore (1885) but some other places too.

The Man in the Moon

I was surprised to see how many cultures share a concept of the Man in the Moon.

Many myths originated biblically, says author of Moon Lore, Timothy Harley.

A French superstition regarded the man in the moon as Judas Iscariot, transported to the moon for his treason. And, the Jewish have a Talmudic tradition that Jacob is in the moon, though the Hebrew Scriptures make no mention of the myth.

A Trip to the Moon, Le Voyage Dans la Lune, G Melies 1902

“The Chinese ‘Old Man in the Moon’ is known as Yue-lao, and is reputed to hold in his hands the power of predestining the marriages of mortals–so that marriages, if not, according to the native idea, exactly made in heaven, are made somewhere beyond the bounds of earth.”

“Among the Khasias of the Himalaya Mountains “the changes of the moon are accounted for by the theory that this orb, who is a man, monthly falls in love with his wife’s mother, who throws ashes in his face”

For the aborigines of New Zealand, it is quoted from D’Urville by De Rougemont in his Le Peuple Primitif as follows:

“Before the moon gave light, a New Zealander named Rona went out in the night to fetch some water from the well. But he stumbled and unfortunately sprained his ankle, and was unable to return home. All at once, as he cried out for very anguish, he beheld with fear and horror that the moon, suddenly becoming visible, descended towards him. He seized hold of a tree, and clung to it for safety; but it gave way, and fell with Rona upon the moon; and he remains there to this day.”

The Man in the Moon? She is Woman, non?

“In English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek, the moon is feminine; but in all the Teutonic tongues the moon is masculine. Which of the twain is its true gender?”

“The moon, it has been said, was viewed as of the masculine gender in respect of the earth, whose husband he was supposed to be; but as a female in relation to the sun, as being his spouse.”

“The woman in the moon as a myth does not obtain to any extent in Europe; she is to be found chiefly in Polynesia, and among the native races of North America.”

“In Samoa, we are told that the moon came down one evening, and picked up a woman, called Sina, and her child. It was during a time of famine. She was working in the evening twilight, beating out some bark with which to make native cloth. The moon was just rising, and it reminded her of a great bread-fruit. Looking up to it, she said, ‘Why cannot you come down and let my child have a bit of you?’ The moon was indignant at the idea of being eaten, came down forthwith, and took her up, child, board, mallet, and all. The popular superstition is not yet forgotten in Samoa of the woman in the moon. ‘Yonder is Sina,’ they say, ‘and her child, and her mallet, and board.”

Perhaps it is neither Man nor Woman. Perhaps it is Hare or Toad, who knows?

Buddhist legend Sakyamuni as a Hare in the Moon

One thing is for certain though:

The Man in the Moon Drinks Claret

“Several astronomers assert the absence of water in the moon; if this be the case, what is the poor man to drink?”

“The man in the moon drinks claret,
But he is a dull Jack-a-Dandy;
Would he know a sheep’s head from a carrot,
He should learn to drink cyder and brandy.”

The Man In The Moon Drinks Claret

Ah, I love it!

The moon, of course, has endlessly fascinated and inspired us. There is so much more written besides and beyond Reverend Harley’s Moon Lore, though I think it is a wonderful source.

Some caution against its exploration:

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous” – Thomas Merton.

But I prefer those – like Carl Sandburg who often turned to the moon as muse – who regard it in whimsy and wonder through the eyes of a child:

Child Moon 
The child’s wonder
At the old moon
Comes back nightly.
She points her finger
To the far silent yellow thing
Shining through the branches
Filtering on the leaves a golden sand,
Crying with her little tongue, “See the moon!”
And in her bed fading to sleep
With babblings of the moon on her little mouth.

The Moon from Space

I could go on and on forever… to the moon and back! But I shall go now, and look forward to this Friday’s rare blue moon, all be it in name only. Perhaps I’ll hear some Moon myths and poems from you, I’d love that. What I’ll be thinking of, though, is that most of us have to settle for staring up and scribbling lovely words. It’s a rare man who knows what He or She, Hare or Toad, is truly like. RIP Mr Armstrong.