Never especially nocturnal, I became intimate with the moon when I became a mother. The moon hovering outside of the hospital window on the night my twins were born. The moon carving a January city out of ice. How thin and sharp is the moon tonight! wrote Langston Hughes. The moon companioning the babies for whom falling asleep felt like death, the fear of which they articulated by screaming. Goodnight, moon, I said aloud, talking to the moon, because the book I was reading my daughters made me. Like the moon, my daughters and I grew older. In stories, the moon we spoke to became a moon that responded. Where are you going and what do you wish? the old moon asked, inviting destination and desire into our discourse. We’re going to the park, my daughters said. We’re walking to the grocery store, my daughters said. The moon listening as they wished for a cat or a baby. The moon lingering flimsily in a corner of the sky, following our car to preschool. Moon, go to sleep. It’s not your work time, my daughter said. The moon drifting over the billboards advertising Google Fiber, breast augmentation, and a cocktail in a can. The moon skimming the live oaks. The moon rhyming with spoon, loon, tune, and soon. The moon my daughters could read if it appeared in a book. The moon my daughters could write if they held a marker. I worried the moon was stretching itself thin. Art thou pale for weariness / Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth? Percy Bysshe Shelley asked. With how sad steps, O moon, thou climb’st the skies!, Sir Philip Sidney exclaimed. Then came November 9, 2016. Mama, why are you sad? my daughters asked. Then, days later, came the big, bright supermoon compelling all of us into the night. For the first time it met my eyes as a globe, Eudora Welty recalled, thinking of a time when she was six. The word ‘moon’ came into my mouth as though fed to me out of a silver spoon. Held in my mouth the moon became a word. My daughters said the word out loud as we walked through the streets of our neighborhood, and I did too, over and over, because the moon had taught us to say things out loud, even when the darkness suggested otherwise.
When I Was Thoreau at Night
I covered my head so as to better
hide from men and see the moon, with whom
I carried on a conversation that illuminated
like lantern-swing, iterating and reiterating trees.
I asked What is my wild original?
The moon said You dream me.
Underfoot, aromatic crush.
I said I marry you. The moon said You cannot husband me.
Overhead, darkness circuited through
its diamond guides. If I were lonely, I loved loneliness.
If I were hungry, I ate battered apples. One star said Pilgrim.
One star said Peregrine. Peregrine. The name
of the first English child born in the brackish
New World. How I envied him, crying into
the wilderness with a name meaning wanderer.
My name seemed tame. How I hoped the farmers
would not find me in this woods, wearing this dress.
I asked the stars Will you be my jewelry?
The stars said Follow us. They drew me deep
into the disheveled spruces to introduce myself
to loss. My fields were ill. They weren’t my fields.
My trees were being killed. They weren’t my trees.
I was nervous that this natural world would see
that I was filthy-footed in silk, a woman
pretending to be the man
to trip a pyrotechnic grace. Oh yes,
I wanted the world to be wild again. I believed
I might hold weather in my hands
and mend it. The night was finite, or infinite.
Expending my expiring decadence in modern
thirst, I tempted biography to invent me.
Weird nun in the night garden, I dipped my face,
yes, my face, in every honeyed pond and could not drink.
CECILY PARKS is author of the poetry chapbook Cold Work, as well as the collections Field Folly Snow and O’Nights. She edited the anthology The Echoing Green: Poems of Fields, Meadows, and Grasses . Her essays on poetry and the natural world appear in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, The Emily Dickinson Journal, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, she teaches in the MFA Program at Texas State University.