Poetry Friday: Night Light

Because today ripened and bloom autumnal chill, and because it is September 11th and I cannot help but think of war, although I do not wish to, I turn to Nancy Willard‘s poem “Night Light”.

This poem appeared in her book Household Tales of Moon and Water. When I was privileged to hear Willard read at the West Chester Poetry Conference a few years ago I forgot to bring along my copy. Instead, I brought her (then) new book up and explained that I had intended to have her sign Household Tales; she generously inscribed her new book thus:

This poem is in quatrains, except for the exceptional ending; I return to it for the repetition and for the thoughts, not the least of which is “its one trick: / it turns into a banana.”

Night Light

The moon is not green cheese.
It is china and stands in this room.
It has a ten-watt bulb and a motto:
Made in Japan.

Whey-faced, doll-faced,
it’s closed as a tooth
and cold as the dead are cold
till I touch the switch.

Then the moon performs
its one trick:
it turns into a banana.
It warms to its subjects,

it draws us into its light,
just as I knew it would
when I gave ten dollars
to the pale clerk

in the store that sold
She asked, did I have a car?
She shrouded the moon in tissue

and laid it to rest in a box.
The box did not say Moon.
It said This side up.
I tucked my moon into my basket

and bicycled into the world.
By the light of the sun
I could not see the
moon under my sack of apples,

moon under slab of salmon,
moon under clean laundry,
under milk its sister
and bread its brother,

moon under meat.
Now supper is eaten.
Now laundry is folded away.
I shake out the old comforters.

My nine cats find their places
and go on dreaming where they left off.
My son snuggles under the heap.
His father loses his way in a book.

It is time to turn on the moon.
It is time to live by a different light.

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