The Professor Moon

November 4, 2012

Last night’s feathery clouds are set aside tonight.
The fattest moon ever is about to shine,
the Professor Moon. It shines, in fact,
across a whole sea of what looks like Chinese porcelain dolls
shaped row by row in the dark ocean
into round smiley faces—
like each wave could be a china plate
made to be crashed  on shore.
We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon,
the professor sings. He shines and sings.
(He sings of mute mules carrying
either ore or so much more than ore:
jackasses in asbestos, say, braying fire.)
He shines to smile, to make us laugh,
our benign knight, circumference king
that he must be. He sings because he is.
(Hollow, not hallowed, a porcelain moon,
a Chinese monk, a creature
of some other morning’s moonlight…)
He shines because what waxes, wanes …
He sings because we sing; shines because we shine.
He thinks, I say, I’ll shine, I’ll sing, I’ll rhyme.

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6 Responses to “The Professor Moon”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    Thomas, you are quite right to focus on the mule and jackass (parenthetical) imagery. The first thing I wanted was something to slow the poem down, slow the words down, slow the mouth down. I wanted something as dense verbally as I could get, something that would absolutely stop you in your tracks—either ore or so much more than ore—jackasses in asbestos—what did he just say? and then give you something to think about—asbestos? Braying fire? Wait, mute mules? Either ore or ore? Where is Sören Kierkegaard when we need him? Basically I was trying to create a center for the poem—professor moon—to revolve around. Not exactly the earth, perhaps, but a center of gravity.
    The line, ‘we are as clouds that veil the midnight moon’ was stolen from a poem by Percy Shelly called ‘Mutability’. Something a ‘professor’ moon should be able to profess. I’m becoming quite fond of Shelly in my old age. I really haven’t read much of his poetry, but I think it might be worth getting into one of these days. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind…and all that. (I am quoting this from memory, and probably messing it up.)
    And yes, that last line. The ‘I say’ turns everything on its head. I hope.

  2. Thomas Davis Says:

    What a wonderful poem, Jim. There are the usual DoubleSimilie complexities. What are we to make of:
    (He sings of mute mules carrying
    either ore or so much more than ore:
    jackasses in asbestos, say, braying fire.)
    A powerful set of images, but it’s meaning has to be teased out inside the poem’s context. But the musicality, as John notes, is wonderful.
    Given the hurricane, the idea of the professor moon’s lessons must be powerful on Long Island right now. The shining
    across a whole sea of what looks like Chinese porcelain dolls
    shaped row by row in the dark ocean
    into round smiley faces—
    like each wave could be a china plate
    made to be crashed on shore.
    illuminates not only a beautiful scene, but also the idea of china plates made to crash on shore, shattering into pieces on the land.
    This image is quickly followed by another lesson from professor moon:
    We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon,
    the professor sings…
    The question is, who is we since the moon is singing. The waves and the moon are as clouds that veil the midnight moon and the moon enhanced storm? That would seem to be what you are saying based upon the context even though you do not talk directly about the storm, but then that puzzling aside about mute mules and jackasses in asbestos braying fire. What are you up to here?
    The mute mules are carrying ore, but more than ore. Ore is the raw material of wealth be it the wealth of iron or the wealth of gold or silver, but here the ore has a dark vein running through it. These are jackasses in asbestos. Asbestos is a building material whose deadly qualities were not discovered until causing cancer in too many people, a substance that retards fire. Still, these jackasses, mute mules, are braying fire.
    Are the waves the mules, beautiful but carrying a deadly substance that cause them to bray fire onto the land where they break in the storm? That seems to make sense of the lines to me, but I am not absolutely sure…
    Then the stunning ending to the poem about the professor moon:
    He shines to smile, to make us laugh,
    our benign knight, circumference king
    that he must be. He sings because he is.
    (Hollow, not hallowed, a porcelain moon,
    a Chinese monk, a creature
    of some other morning’s moonlight…)
    He shines because what waxes, wanes …
    Then the metaphysical lesson of the moon:
    He sings because we sing; shines because we shine.
    Like Schrödinger’s cat, the professor moon takes its characteristics for we humans observing him. Does he sing when we are not there to hear him sing? Does he shine when we do not observe him shining? He is, in the end, a reflection of our reflection.
    Then the poem turns, becoming about the poet rather than the professor moon, reflecting back on the professor moon:
    He thinks, I say, I’ll shine, I’ll sing, I’ll rhyme.
    and make a poem that delights even as it forces the reader to delve deeply into its strange, beautiful ores.

  3. John Stevens Says:

    I love this idea of the Professor Moon, Jim … and he shines “because what waxes, wanes” … and he sings because we sing.
    There’s a lovely musicality in these lines, and your opening 2-3 lines are as clear and striking as the moon itself – those lines and that image just draw the reader’s eye onwards. Lovely to read, lovely to play with.

  4. Anna Mark Says:

    I really enjoy the image of waves as china plates crashing onto shore, the fat professor moon singing…interesting images here. I, too, wrote a moon poem recently ; ) A captivating subject.

  5. extrasimile Says:

    Thanks, Tom. Since you mention Stevens, I can’t resist adding from ‘The Man on the Dump’:
    The sun is a corbeil of flowers the moon Blanche
    Places there, a bouquet. Ho-ho…

    ‘The moon Blanche’…it doesn’t get better than that.
    I’ve been neglecting your blog…a little matter of a hurricane…I have had no access to the Internet, then a little, than nothing, and finally, I hope, we’re are back for good. Quite a storm. I see you have some comments on ‘The Names of Horses’—one of my favorite poems. And I have to catch up on the Pond Songs. So much to do.

  6. Tom D'Evelyn Says:

    What a splendid moon! Lovely sur-realizing of the circumferenced, not to mention the circumferencer. Say only you make the Stevensian gestures shines by making it new. An homage and so much more.


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