Does anyone stare at the moon anymore? Wondering.  Occasionally, accompanied with a feeling you need to know where so-and-so has gone? Don’t you simply check Facebook? You want to know how an old acquaintance looks nowadays? Try their Twitter Bio, blog or other online resource. When Emily Dickinson writes “You know the Portrait in the Moon”, she recalls a moon who oversees all, networking the mysteries in love, loss and adventure.

You know that Portrait in the Moon –
So tell me Who ’tis like –
The very Brow – the stooping eyes –
A fog for – Say – Whose Sake?

The very Pattern of the Cheek –
It varies – in the Chin –
But – Ishmael – since we met – ’tis long –
And fashions – intervene –

When Moon’s at full – ‘Tis Thou – I say –
My lips just hold the name –
When crescent – Thou art worn – I note –
But – there – the Golden Same –

And when – Some Night – Bold – slashing Clouds
Cut Thee away from Me –
That’s easier – than the other film
That glazes Holiday –

I find in this poem a curious mixture of sensations of warmth and affection, together with adventurous yearnings, which paradoxically lead to looking inward, “A fog for – Say – Whose Sake?”

In an imaginary moon-study-conversation, “So tell me Who ’tis like – / The very Brow – the stooping eyes – ” a restlessness that is hard to pin down sets the mood. We are “asked” to share in gazing at the moon, looking outward the way reading a book is looking outside one’s own thoughts and assumptions.

An adventure is anything that is different from that which seems temporarily a limited world. Gazing at the moon isn’t only searching for escape, but remaining secure in existing comforts. “But – Ishmael – since we met – ’tis long -/And fashions – intervene -” is a reminder of this dual rootedness in memory and present-day conditions. Whether “Ishmael” is a reference to the long-suffering Herman Melville character in Moby Dick, or Abraham’s intriguing son, they both embody love and adventure?

I think both are possibilities as docents in my private adventure, “When Moon’s at full – ”.  Perhaps “ ‘Tis Thou – I say -/ My lips just hold the name – ”, is like that brief stage of fullness in the moon – unfortunate that this feeling of oneness and belonging is so brief. The exact memory of those not in our daily lives fades like the moon, “When crescent – Thou art worn – I note -”.

In the final stanza there’s no longer a conversation, as two kinds of imaginary or lost loves emerge. “And when – Some Night – Bold – slashing Clouds / Cut Thee away from Me -”, swashbuckling daring invades the night in the form of clouds whose romantic, gallant flamboyance cut into reality.  Of course, there’s always “… the other film / That glazes Holiday – ”. Holidays that are supposed to be a break from routine may be dimmed by thoughts of “The very Pattern of the Cheek – ” who is easier to see in a full moon. (Facebook eat your heart out.)

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way

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