What is the moon—that single satellite
Of planet earth, spun like a ball of shot
That nestles in the unseen sling of earth-pull?

She is a fickle, restless sky-bound presence:
Sometimes a gilded orb, or lustrous pearl,
Or bright, blanched bead of desiccated bone,
Or the buttery face of childhood picture books…

Sometimes a pale rindless melon slice,
A silver smile, a slant parenthesis,
A scimitar with gleaming, scything blade,
Cutting a swathe among the clustering stars…

Sometimes a giant, dusky copper disc
That glowers with a wild-fire glow,
Lurid and disturbingly immense,
Hunkered on the distant city skyline…

Sometimes a surreptitious infiltrator
Into the alien brightness of the day,
Appearing as a ghostly fingerprint—
A smudge of sugar-dust—upon the sky…

Rarely—a starkly silhouetted circle,
Seeking to blockade the blinding sun,
Transmuting our familiar golden daystar
Into a perfect, brilliant beaded ring…

These are the many guises of the moon,
Who plies our skies as the lovely lesser light
Primordially installed to rule the night,
And partnering the earth in a steady waltz…

Marking out our multifarious feasts,
Herding the oceans in their endless flux,
And summoning the forces of new life
From turtles, corals, worms and whip-poor-wills…

And so she’s lauded, feared, mythologised
And even idolised, though she remains
A remorseless and remote divinity,
Haloed by a mist of superstitions…

A muse, an alchemist, midnight enchantress,
Bestower of fertility or madness,
Hunter of clouds, a mythic ship of dreams
Afloat upon a sea darker than wine…

But these days, through our starless city nights,
She now drifts unremembered, or ignored,
Or thought of with bare functionality
As just some post-apocalyptic life-raft
For frantic flight into the abyss of space…

And since the duelling of contesting nations
Has overstepped the boundaries of our earth,
Inevitably she has now become
Just one more parcel of conquered terrain…

Since the day when enterprising men
Landed their lunatically frail craft,
Like a gilded insect, on her skin,
And first emerged to mark her virgin dust
With one small step down to the desert ground…

But still, illuminator of the darkness,
The moon graciously gave us one more gift,
One of her greatest gifts to humankind…

As on her arid plain men slowly turned
To look upon the monochrome horizon,
They found their startled, humbled gaze transfixed…

What new planet swam up from the dark side?
What sudden clarity then crystallised?
A sight unseen by humans through all time:
The peerless and profoundly poignant earthrise.


Anne Woodcock is married to Pete and works as an Editor for a publishing company. Anne has also written a poem for every month of the year.

18 July 2019