FACTS ABOUT THE MOON The moon is backing away from us an inch and a half each year. That means if you're like me and were born around fifty years ago the moon was a full six feet closer to the earth. What's a person supposed to do?

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16 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 7 μήνες)

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The moon is backing away from us

an inch and a half each year. That means

if you're like me and were born

around fifty years ago the moon

was a full six feet closer to the earth.

What's a person supposed to do?

I feel the gray cloud
of consternation

travel across my face. I begin thinking

about the moon
lit past, how if you go back

far enough you can imagine the breathtaking

hugeness of the moon, prehistoric

solar eclipses when the moon covered the sun

so completely there was no coron
a, only

a darkness we had no word for.

And future eclipses will look like this: the moon

a small black pupil in the eye of the sun.

But these are bald facts.

What bothers me most is that someday

the moon will spiral right out of orbit

and all land
based li
fe will die.

The moon keeps the oceans from swallowing

the shores, keeps the electromagnetic fields

in check at the polar ends of the earth.

And please don't tell me

what I already know, that it won't happen

for a long time. I don't care. I'm afraid

of wha
t will happen to the moon.

Forget us. We don't deserve the moon.

Maybe we once did but not now

after all we've done. These nights

I harbor a secret pity for the moon, rolling

around alone in space without

her milky planet, her only child, a mother

who's lo
st a child, a bad child,

a greedy child or maybe a grown boy

who's murdered and raped, a mother

can't help it, she loves that boy

anyway, and in spite of herself

she misses him, and if you sit beside her

on the padded hospital bench

outside the door to his

room you can't not

take her hand, listen to her while she

weeps, telling you how sweet he was,

how blue his eyes, and you know she's only

romanticizing, that she's conveniently

forgotten the bruises and booze,

the stolen car, the day he ripped

the phones
from the walls, and you want

to slap her back to sanity, remind her

of the truth: he was a leech, a fuckup,

a little shit, and you almost do

until she lifts her pale puffy face, her eyes

two craters and then you can't help it

either, you know love when you

see it,

you can feel its lunar strength, its brutal pull.

Dorianne Laux is the author of five collections of poetry,

Book of Men
(Norton, 2010) and

Facts About the

(Norton, 2006). She is also the coauthor, with
Kim Addonizio

The Poet’s Companion
. Among her awards are a Pushcart
Prize, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Ar
and a Guggenheim fellowship. She is a professor of poetry at the
University of Oregon’s Creative Writing Program and lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her
husband, the poet

Joseph Millar

How a Poem Happens

When was this poem composed? How did it start?

The poem began in the summer of 2004 as I had a dinner table conve
rsation with our
friends in Eugene, Oregon, poet Maxine Scates and her husband Bill Cadbury, and my
husband, Joseph Millar. We were sitting on a deck overlooking the Willamette River and the
full moon was out in all its mid
summer glory. One of us asked, p
robably me since I know
next to nothing, how the solar or lunar system works. I think Bill began to tell us, and he was
fine up until it came to how the earth, sun and moon rotate in tandem. The candle was the
sun and the sugar bowl was the moon. The sweet

and low ramekin was the earth. For
planets we had to steal more salt and pepper shakers from neighboring tables. No matter
how we twisted and turned them, we just couldn’t quite figure it out. Hardly anything stumps
Bill, and so over the next few weeks it

became a game, one of us would look something up
and then try to explain it to the others. We were not getting very far. No one could really
visualize it. Sometime later I happened to be watching The Discovery Channel and there
was a special about the moo
n. It was amazing. Among the many facts I learned that night
the one that stuck was the fact that since the expansion of the universe, the moon has been
steadily and significantly backing away from the earth, which meant the moon once
appeared much larger
in the past and would only appear smaller in the future. I couldn’t get
over it. I went to bed trying to imagine it and woke up thinking about it. I was obsessed. I
even re
watched the movie Joe and the Volcano with Tom Hanks because there’s this
scene in
it where he’s left everything behind, his job, his country, his life, and is floating in a
shift raft on the ocean and wakes to the moon rising over the water. He struggles to
stand and face it and is dwarfed by it, and says, “Dear God, whose name I d
o not know,
thank you for my life. I forgot how big... Thank you for my life.” I also read everything I could
get my hands on about the moon. That fascination has been long
lived as I’m still reading
about the universe and am just now I’m finishing up Timo
thy Ferris’ Coming of Age in the
Milky Way. The second aspect of the poem is that my extended family was going through a
crisis, a not uncommon state of affairs for them, so that was in the back of my mind. I
was in the process of working to pull away

from them. Maybe I became obsessed with the
moon as a way to curb my obsession with the latest family crisis. But the tug of the family is
tremendous. Even a crazy family can seem better than no family. The poem is two
obsessions in collision.

How many r
evisions did this poem undergo? How much time elapsed between the
first and final drafts?

I had thought about it so long that when the poem finally came it came out fairly close to
finished. But as you can see I worked on it, if abstractly, in my head fo
r months.

Do you believe in inspiration? How much of this poem was “received” and how much
was the result of sweat and tears?

I was inspired first by the moon, then by the facts, then by the human affairs in relation to
the facts, then love vs. the facts. The sweat and tears occured in trying to figure out how the
lunar system worked, in trying to imagine how the sky looked to pe
ople eons ago,
wondering what it was like to be made so small by the moon, how bright it must have been
at night, how dark the night sky will be in the future. Which was a fun, curious, childlike kind
of thinking, not too much sweat, and few tears, except
for thinking about the suffering of my
family, and the moon.

How did this poem arrive at its final form? Did you consciously employ any
principles of technique?

That the listing of the facts was in some way interesting was my only concern. The form is
en and easy, just a voice speaking in a fairly regularly broken line. The leap from the
planetary to the personal might have been a technique had I thought of it consciously, but I
didn’t. It happened naturally, organically, without my being aware of it un
til I had finished the
poem. I really thought the poem was about the moon, and these two people I had made up,
the woman and her boy, strangers to me, but realized then it was my mother and my sister,
or my sister and my niece, in disguise.

How long after

you finished this poem did it first appear in print? How long do you let
a poem “sit” before you send it off into the world? Do you have any rules about this
or does your practice vary with every poem?

“Facts about the Moon” first appeared in a journal p
roduced by the Loft Literary Center in
Minnesota called

. The editor, Bart Schneider, asked me for something and I
sent it along. It was a wonderful journal filled with great articles, stories and poems and had
a political bent. I’m not sure it st
ill exists. It may have gone the way of a number of fine print
journals. The poem was also reprinted in 2005 as a poem of introduction to the Love Light
issue of an on
line magazine called

The Blue Fifth Review
, and can still be found in the
archives. I’m
grateful to both magazines for giving the poem a chance, and a life.

Could you talk about fact and fiction and how this poem negotiates the two?

This poem is more of an example of how fact and fact are negotiated. There are the
scientific facts recited

one by one, and then the fact of human love set against those facts.
Human love, especially family love, is complicated, scary, irrational, messy. The moon’s
historically romantic symbolism is also set against this more complicated aspect of human
ruin, a
nd love: unjustified love, harmful love, a kind of unconditional love or love in spite of
the facts.

Is this a narrative poem?

The narrative appears halfway through the poem and so the lyric is set against the wall of
science. My hope is that the human

narrative gives life to the facts or that the facts give life
to the narrative.

Do you remember who you were reading when you wrote this poem? Any influences
you’d care to disclose?

I do know that I read James Wright’s

Above the River

around that time, and he’s famous for
the leap, so he was probably an influence, and Philip Levine’s uncompromising vision and
voice. As I said, it takes a village. I’m grateful for any and all influences.

Do you have any particular audience in mind when
you write, an ideal reader?

Not beyond a general reader who needs to be clear about what’s going on. I like my poems
to be understood by anyone walking down the street, waiting at a bustop, driving a cab,
waiting tables or even a mother sitting in a hosp
ital room with a kid who’s O.D’d.
Unfortunately, those people read very little poetry. Even so, I write for them.

Did you let anyone see drafts of this poem before you finished it? Is there an
individual or a group of individuals with whom you regularly
share work?

I called Bill Cadbury right after I wrote the poem as it felt like the culmination of all our failed
research. He said, “I think you’ve got a winner there”. It felt good. In that sense, the poem
was written for Bill who was a linguistics profe
ssor for 30 years at the University of Oregon,
and our little group of moon
gazing poets. So clearly, I write for him/them too. I showed the
poem to my husband when he got home from work and he made some suggestions, then to
my writing friends who made a f
ew more. Mostly I share work now with my husband and my
friend, poet Ellen Bass. Phil Levine always takes a good look at a book before I publish it.
My editor at Norton, Carol Houck Smith, recently died. She edited the book, Facts about the
Moon, and was t
he one to suggest that the poem be the title poem of the book. My friend
Maxine Scates found the painting by Magritte, a tree with a moon in its crown. It takes a

How does this poem differ from other poems of yours?

I think it’s in the range o
f what I’ve been doing all along. The science is new, but the human
side of things

that’s my ultimate interest. Who are we in relation to the world around us.
What, here on earth, is the meaning of our lives.

What is American about this poem?

The violen
ce of it. The adolescence
control of it. The mother alone of it. The fuck up,
little shit of it. The family
crisis of it. The Philip Levine
ish forget us of it. The guilt and
shame and what have we done of it. The in
hour love of it.