Deborah Cummins


If Not Moonless



Hours ago, the day bid its final goodnight--
pale strip on the horizon, small
hankie fluttered from a receding ship.
Lines blurred, the firred woods a smudge,
the pond a smear. Now, dark,
slurried with clouds but not really moonless,
night attempts erasure, and sounds awaken,
as though to a trumpet call, shrill, clarion.

Aloft, a barred owl announces itself.
Long past vespers, pickerel frogs in the creekbed’s clay
raise their mortal chorus.
And just as a pool’s current to be seen
requires branch or rock to eddy around,
last season’s lingering beech leaves, their fitful quake,
give shape to wind, make of it
something tangible, solid.
Obedient, rapt, I listen.

But if not moonless,
occluded? Is obliterated more accurate?
Why need words at all? Among these gifts
dished up every night, why require
the clatter of syllables or some equivalent cry
in a language I can understand?

On this lane to the pond, low rise over the field,
a mere month after his death, so sudden and violent,
I still, in silence or inarticulate racket,
yearn for words with their power to tell me
if this wind touching my face, my throat’s hollow
is one part of a singular wind
that, long and unbroken, travels the earth
with no beginning or end.

Tonight’s moon, I must believe,
has not been effaced,
has not been removed or destroyed or shut off.
Obfuscated, I have faith, is more apt.