“A Poem About the Moon” and “My Friend Clara”

A Poem About the Moon
He loved her insofar as he loved himself and loved
the idea of himself loving her, which he said was “to the moon
and back,” and she loved him insofar as her poems needed
to be about something, insofar as the moon belonged
to everybody and did the same thing month in and
month out, insofar as it simply watched and watched
each night, which was what she did, more or less,
insofar as the moon can be a lover. She thought about calling him
“lover.” She was young and there were so many words
to try. He wanted a poem about him;
wanted a thousand poems; wanted to be put in a museum. He wanted the poem
more than her body, and so the poem pulsed
between them, a glowing orb, translucent and silver. She told her friends
the sex was good. His body was coated with adjectives
and dotted with nouns: soft, warm, white; nose, ear, sweat.
One night, after two unfortunate hours in bed, he told her
he had erectile dysfunction. “Oh,” she said, “I wondered.”
She should have called him “lover,” then.
“Jack has erectile dysfunction,” she told her friend
after the break-up. “Is that why you broke up?” her friend asked.
“No,” she said, and cried for six months without stopping.
Even afterwards, at the four different coffee shops
where they discussed the end of their relationship,
they spoke only of the moon, its waxing
and waning. She hoped she could call her next lover “lover”
and that he would dominate her sexually.
Later, she thought she saw him at the MoMA
in the crowd in front of Munch’s Scream, on loan from Munich,
but it was simply the bald man in the nightscape,
eternally open-mouthed, eternally silent.

My Friend Clara
spends all day drinking vodka and cranberry.
She starts in the morning with more cranberry and ends
in the evening with more vodka and if you catch her
in the middle she’ll tell you the bad part is she’s unhappy
but the good part is she’s immortal
and then she’ll laugh and laugh, the kind of rollicking laugh
men have in Jack Kerouac, whom she hates
because she hates all men, but she loves birds,
and can identify them by their songs, and loves her acupuncturist,
Annie, who makes her hallucinate in a good way,
and Paula Abdul, whose music she blasts
all through her brother’s birthday party, louder
and louder each time someone complains.
On Annie’s table, she says she dreams again:
that she is reincarnated as a warbler,
that sex with Liz turns into something,
that she has to die for her brother and does so gratefully.
My friend Clara has organized everything: the surprise
and the cake and the friends showing up,
now that everyone is having such a good time
she allows herself space to hate her brother
who, like me, is doing well,
who, like me, has gone to college far away.
From the fire escape we watch someone
walk through his apartment turning on lights,
then turning them off, then the light of the fridge,
then no fridge, then the TV.
She marvels at how many ways there are
to say a group of birds:
a flock or a brood or a cloud,
a bevy of quail, a charm of finches,
a watch of nightingales, a murmuration of starlings—
a murmuration of starlings! Can you imagine?
One night at the Meyer’s countryhouse,
my friend Clara and I snuck down to the pond,
stripped off our pajamas, and jumped in;
me because she did, she because she wanted to.
I remember the cold and the sky and the thick
of her breasts glistening with droplets, how
in the years that followed, I betrayed her
and became happy. As a compromise,
I referred to her as my lover
though we had never been lovers,
had never come close. Can you imagine
a covey of partridges or a spring of teal?
They glide across the water as one
then split into a thousand birds in the air.

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