Halfway up the maple, the moon looks
suspended in a mesh of telephone wires.
A few hours ago it blotted a bright blue
planet from the sky—it takes 84 Earth years
for a single year to pass there but the moon
obscures it in ten seconds before its thirteen
rings can split the horizon. On this harvest month
it can dim even the dog star but now it needs my help—
tilting my head in homage I take a few steps
to the right, and the moon is free.
Author’s note: The lunar occultation referred to is when the moon passes in front of a planet, in tonight’s case, Uranus. I combined this with the visual experience I had in my front yard this evening. In the long run, I think the version of the poem below, shorter and without the additional planet-specific info, may be the final form this poem takes. Because the specific information about how distance affects time and perception, is very interesting to me, and just kinda cool, I wanted to share the original poem above as well. Due to an unfortunate hit-and-run accident soon after its formation, Uranus is also a strangely tilted planet, thus the reference in the last stanza. Feel free to comment on which version you prefer. Lunar Occultation Halfway up the maple, the moon looks
suspended in a mesh of telephone wires. A few hours ago it blotted a bright blue
planet from the sky—now it needs my help. Tilting my head in homage I take a few steps
to the right, and the moon is free.
One vote for the longer version — admittedly I am a sucker for science poems (speaking of, AR Ammons was a great recommendation, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/242158 blew me away) — but from a poetry standpoint, I like the repetition of numbers and the complexity it establishes, in contrast the simple act of tilting one’s head
If you haven’t read “Ballad” yet, look for that, too. I know that’s available online somewhere. It is one of my favorite poems ever. He always stays grounded in the world, no matter what he’s writing about. I may revisit the longer version and make it longer still (see Robert’s comment below) to bring out more of what you’re talking about, or just tweak it a bit with maybe one additional couplet to respect its length. I have a feeling when I put the next book together I may solve this by including them both…
Thank you! I will take that response to mean “heck, you can use either version.”
I like both versions. It’s really a toss-up for me which I realize is no help. They are both fine pieces of writing and I love the last two lines.
Thanks, and Len, always great to hear from you. I think all the key elements are in the shorter poem, but the way I presented them, by the time you read the shorter poem, you already know the longer poem, and you can’t un-forget that additional content, so it makes choosing a little more difficult, I think… I should have presented them so you read the shorter one first! Gah.
Oddly, I feel that the longer one is too short. I want more moon. Perhaps this is the poet’s version of “more cow bell”? Ha! At any rate, the shorter one leaves me feeling satisfied, complete.
Thanks Robert! Hmm. the longer one is too short. It is saying something about both you and me that this actually makes a great deal of sense to me…
Scary, isn’t it?
Tell the truth, I like the shorter one. It seems poetically correct, while the other seems to enter a space of rhetoric that takes you out of the poetry and into explanation; as if the poem needed its own critical paraphernalia supplied like a Rube Goldberg machine in reverse. The second one evokes an image, whereas the first explains in prose the science.
Your observation is much appreciated, SC! I believe “Rube Goldberg machine in reverse” should be applied to my poetics in a full-length essay by you at some point…
Dang…. now I get to go back and reread all your great poems. Tasked me, have you… 😉
Hmm. They seem to do different things. But if I have to choose, I am going with the shorter one. But I can be persuaded. How is that for conviction?
That works for me–thanks!
My heart is with the first poem because Uranus is so often overlooked and I love all things astronomical. But as long as the line “On this harvest month it can dim even the dog star” remains, I’m happy!
Thanks SJ. I’m glad you liked that line.
How about, the first version, but condensed just a tad? Meaning, splitting the difference between the first and second versions.
Another take I will consider when putting together the final version of this project. Thanks!