Friday, October 9, 2009

Poetry Friday: Eleanor Wilner, The North Pole, The Moon

Since I've been thinking a lot about photography lately (see yesterday's post about the death of Irving Penn) I'll just post this amazing "visual poem" - a photograph of the moon, taken at the North Pole. Like the best poetry, it's both irreducible and mysterious. As is this poem by Eleanor Wilner:


And they will gather by the well,
its dark water a mirror to catch whatever
stars slide by in the slow precession of
the skies, the tilting dome of time,
over all, a light mist like a scrim,
and here and there some clouds
that will open at the last and let
the moon shine through; it will be
at the wheel's turning, when
three zeros stand like paw-prints
in the snow; it will be a crescent
moon, and it will shine up from
the dark water like a silver hook
without a fish--until, as we lean closer,
swimming up from the well, something
dark but glowing, animate, like live coals--
it is our own eyes staring up at us,
as the moon sets its hook;
and they, whose dim shapes are no more
than what we will become, take up
their long-handled dippers
of brass, and one by one, they catch
the moon in the cup-shaped bowls,
and they raise its floating light
to their lips, and with it, they drink back
our eyes, burning with desire to see
into the gullet of night: each one
dips and drinks, and dips, and drinks,
until there is only dark water,
until there is only the dark.

Eleanor Wilner

The poetry Friday Round-Up is over at Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day. Enjoy!


  1. How beautiful. Both the photograph and the poem. Thanks for posting this.

  2. The poem is haunting. I've been watching the full moon wane this week, but now I'm thinking about how much I've missed by not being able to see it in a well...

  3. Amazing poem. I esp love the tilting dome of time.

    And the image of us drinking the moon, drinking time, drinking life...absolutely love this one. Wow.

    Thanks, Julie. A new-to-me poet I'll have to explore further.

  4. Thanks, Nandini, Mary Lee and Laura - it's definitely fun to discover a new poet, isn't it? Thanks for your comments.