Conrad Potter Aiken

(5 August 1889 – 17 August 1973 / Savannah, Georgia)

How to Accompany The Moon Without Walking


Harsh, harsh, the maram grass on the salt dune,
seen by the cricket’s eye against the harbor moon,
anchor-frost and seaward, the lighthouse moon—

the bellbuoy-beating moon, the tiderip bronze
ringing above deep channels and old bones,
the hawsehole moon, where blood and money runs—

foremast and mainmast moon, up harbor still,
island and smokestack moon, and the wind-spill
falling from the sail-throat for the moon to fill—

up harbor, the old wharf moon, the capstan moon,
and round it the capstan bars, the heeling tune,
India Wharf, we'll bring you to Rio soon—

the shipyard moon, the grain-elevator moon,
derrick and gantry, and the turbine croon
sweet under seafoam as a bird in June—

red-warehouse moon, yacht-basin moon, where spars
tangle and telegraph with stays and stars—
hi ho, the queen of accordions and guitars—

ship-chandler moon, sea-boots and Wharf Street shine,
the ropewalk moon that spins in turpentine,
sail-loft invaded with a pour of silver twine—

and high! up spinning! skyscraper tipped on purple!
skyscraper moon, and high! for the stare of people—
skysign and belltower moon, moon for the steeple—

bells breaking bronze, gold, down, the scattered tinkle,
silver-bell moon, cornice and rooftop twinkle,
Christmas and graveyard moon, the tinsel sprinkle—

and dead, the stockyard moon, where blood drips down,
dead longhorn and mute snout; the barrelhouse moon,
moonmusic doubling, rigadoon, jigadoon—

so down, and down, who will be darkened soon,
red and green lights, the pallid airport moon—
ah! on the flying field, the captive balloon!

and cold; for the rim of night, the earth’s black arc,
swings up, blots out the stars, to the last spark;
while, underworld, the moon drowns dead and dark.

Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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