The piece to follow came yesterday, after a hypnagogic vision in the morning. The vision was very simple, but clear: I glanced down at my hand, and noticed a small, vividly green caterpillar walking across my skin. Luna moths are among my favorite creatures, and we go back a long way, but we don’t have them where I live, and I miss them. So when I saw a green caterpillar, I thought, right, Luna, what is the phase of the Moon? Waxing crescent. The poem came swiftly after that.

This phase of Rain Harp is still new, but a few kind readers have noticed. Thank you! Most of you have something in common immediately–you are lunatics. In a good way! Your titles and avatars often feature the Moon. I’ve been a lunatic for as far back as I can remember, and that is far enough that I remember how upset I was to think of humans setting foot there, the one place we thought could never be desecrated. But poets and lunatics in general are resourceful. We tracked and mapped and discovered the source of the real Moon, the one we were always taken with, within all the sacred lore of the Moon and our own understanding. One day, there will be human extractive resource industries on the satellite that orbits the Earth. Those uninvited can never extract what they can in no way perceive.

Synchronicities and precognitive blips happen often during composition, and one of the advantages of blogging is having a place to record them publicly. As I was working yesterday, the word ‘redoubt’ came up, and I decided to check the definition because I knew it had a military usage which might affect the poem. This brought up links to articles about a film entitled ‘Redoubt,’ by a filmmaker named Matthew Barney, someone previously unknown to me. One of the first links stated that the film is a modern retelling of the myth of Diana and Actaeon. Diana–more of a Moon connection. Curious, but I was still at work. (I am deliberately experimenting with disrupting my own concentration these days, hoping to find a muscle that I can strengthen–I used to insist on working straight through without pause.) As I was composing, mention of metals came up–noble or base, thin surface plating versus a ‘live’ core. As usual, this made no particular sense in the moment, but I trust that poems know how to make themselves at this point, so it got written down. After finishing, I read more about Barney, and learned that he had become quite involved with the process of metal electroplating in his work. I turned to the topic of luna moths again, and learned that they eclose from their cocoons–hatch, that is–using their cremaster, the hook that anchors the cocoon. Matthew Barney created a huge art installation and film series in the 1990s called Cremaster. I do not recall having seen the word before.

What does all this mean? Not as much as one might suppose, usually. Most people who have observed synchronicities over time simply take them as signs that one is on the right track in the moment. Artists who are really delving deeply into their sources end up having shared sources anyway; that’s been going on as long as art itself. It pleases me to have this to share today, though, as tuned-in lunatics seem to be many around here.

Female luna moths eclose so heavy with eggs, they cannot fly. Neither the male nor the female has fully developed mouth-parts. They do not eat; they mate and die. Their lives as caterpillars are their real lives; the moth-body might as well be a fairy tale to them, for most of their time.

18 December 2020


Vale of the Flightless Friend

I just can’t imagine, I started to say–but I can, since it’s happening; simply work back

from what’s right here in front of you, pay close attention, let the thing lead you along its own track

to your sad present person, and there’ll come an answer to what you imagine will be–a mistake

if you go it alone, but a glad sort of venture if someone goes with you. You’ve lore to un-fake;

great hoardings of various ancient made-objects with valuable properties, though some aren’t real,

and you need them to teach you their qualities willingly; rummage around amid ashes and feel

what’s magnetic and what is perhaps noble metal by how it affects first your skin, then the nerves

underneath, where they carry the rapidest messages: This is no more than a worker deserves

who is steadfast as you–feast your eyes on the glitter of mounded-up crystals and faceted glass,

and know what grew deepest in earth and what mattered at last after someone made pass after pass

at the formula bringing a spectrum of wonderful colors through fire to your eyes and your room.

Earth taught you first the combining of elements under duress in the hot smoky gloom

of the chamber of secrets–the final redoubt in which change is inevitable and immense.

Summon the part of your mind that’s been wandering–this is about to make terrible sense

of the questions you’ve been incubating all winter as if they were little round luminous seeds

searching patiently where they were laid as if you were the garden and they, the long pathway that leads

to a realization about to break through the thin sharp surface-plating and touch the live core

where you’ve always been waiting, vibrating with endless excitement that all the most genuine lore

of your long lives combined has been safely contained in a silken enclosure like skin, but not yours.

When you go back to visit the store-room some time in the future, bring your next search out of doors;

you’ll have found it before you’ve drawn breath, let alone turned the latch to admit you where nothing remains

but some rough brittle fibers surrounding a blank hollow chamber. Recall your own long birthing-pains

every moment the heart in you beats on too rapidly; then only look to the leaves nearest by–

and what you can’t see is the reason he wants you so much. The green lover who’s learned how to fly

has but one fierce desire that will drive him to find her wherever she waits with her burden to share.

She knows where she is, but she’s scared to move forward; there’s glass litter, jewelry, an odd metal air

that makes breathing an unsought adventure, and finally–there–all the rest was but ash the wind’s blown

away, and it’s left us a virtual palace of magical artifacts. You’re not alone

with the sorting to follow; he’s circling over your head by a few scanty inches, or less.

After the eeriest series of changes, he’s still as spring-green as he was; would you bless

the ground, or the air that supports him, as long as it kept you in beauty the length of his tale?

All is not mere metal gold; even now, there’s a luna moth over the gloom of this vale.


About J

formal verse poetry and commentary at
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