Up at 4:30 and out on the porch at 5:00. The fourth-quarter moon, horns pointing to the right, hangs low over the ridge. The only other celestial object visible through the thin mist is Venus, caught in the crown of an oak. A yellow-billed cuckoo breaks the silence – or tries to. It falters, two notes short. The moonlight is so weak and diffuse, one can just as easily convince oneself that it is rising from the earth, from the tall grass where the insect motor goes on running day and night, from now until first frost.
I am thinking about my attraction to magic and hermeneutics, the fallacies of world-as-altar and world-as-text. But why privilege logic – an artificial system of rules if ever there was one – with this talk of fallacies? Keep your eye on the little pea, says Venus. Keep imitating the oroborous, says the moon. Watch me catch and swallow my tail until there’s nothing left!
Ennightenment never lasts. Already, as I type these words, the hour hand creeps past 6:00 and I can see out the door how belighted grows the world, how green and decadent. I am remembering the wondrous series of photos I looked at last night on Paula’s blog: up close and personal with a common milkweed, from bud to empty pod. If I had a macro lens like hers with the pen to match, I too would kneel in near-worship before what Blake might have called the lineaments of gratified desire.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star, says the infernal proverb. Eternity is in love with the productions of time. Now you’re talking!
And the planet, let’s remember, has two hemispheres. From January in July we come to February in August. If I were Australian, this would be the month of my birth instead of my parents’ wedding anniversary. But I particularly like the idea of the two-faced god having two stations in the course of a year. In July, his warm and cold eyes trade places. The moon, after all, is a crescent twice. And the poet, with a mind of winter, argues always from the particular to the particular, case by case. Midwives, you know.
Every newborn follows its own map into the world:
I know them all.
So many ruts have been worn into my palms
there’s hardly any space left.
When the moment arrives I can see everything.
The womb is a Möbius river for its blind fish
swimming toward the net of my hands,
a sun always at zenith for its melon
ready to part from the vine.
Neither fish nor melon
the slick chrysalis peels open
& a newborn tugs at its tether like a kite,
I cut it loose & it lurches,
wheeling toward the breast.
Listen, these images are for
your benefit, not mine.
I want you to see how this work
is never routine.
I’ve yet to lose one: the Lord’s been with me–
whether or not the husband helps–
there’s always a voice saying Now.
A voice saying Breathe.
I quote myself [PDF], chasing my own tail: how shameless! Hoping thereby to disappear behind the rhetorical flourish, the sleight-of-hand. My recurrent fantasy, which comes to me unbidden right before sleep, is to saw myself open – to commit seppuku without dying or feeling pain. Is it a birth fantasy, I wonder? I would like to hold my own viscera in my lap and read the future. But this chronicle inside me – I fear it won’t give up without a struggle. Joys impregnate, says Blake again. Sorrows bring forth.
Thanks to Everyman for reminding me recently about “ennightenment.” It was Paula, again, who blogged about “a mind of winter” a while back, but I couldn’t turn up the post just now. The phrase comes from Wallace Stevens’ famous poem “The Snow Man,” which concludes with
“…the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”