"Moon Phasery"

Lisa Richter

Lisa Richter is the author of two books of poetry, Closer to Where We Began (Tightrope Books, 2017) and Nautilus and Bone (Frontenac House, 2020), winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals in Canada and the US. She lives in Toronto.

“‘What on earth can be said about the moon?’ asks Mary Ruefle, in her essay “Poetry and the Moon’ (from Madness, Rack and Honey). ‘La luna! La bella luna!’ cries Cher’s octogenarian Italian grandfather in Moonstruck, one of my all-time favourite movies. The moon exerts its relentless pull over us as it does the tides. Can any lyric poem ever truly escape its influence? ‘Moon Phasery’ emerged in response to images of the moon in visual art over the centuries from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website, whose catalog provided the source text of the quotes in each section.”
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i. Moon Jar, 2nd half of the 18th c., Korea

“a distinctive type of porcelain from the late Joseon period . . . made from joining two hemispherical halves”

     I join my father even though
     he is dead and I am not—

     someone hollows out my chest
     scrapes clean the calcified
     residue for years to heart clinging

     someone joins me
     to the smooth curvature
     that is my father’s spatial memory

     our halves make a disjointed
     whole despite the hairline
     gaps between us

     unlike the perfect ivory
     sphere that is the surface
     of a moon jar

ii. Moon Flask with Crane and Fish Motifs, 1870

“design attributed to Christopher Dresser”

     Bright morning sky, you do away
     with what’s left of the moon
     creamy scraps of it still on display
                              I question your taste level

     you carry off marble ruins
     leave me with miraculous
     birds, legs like silk ladder rungs stretching
     taut over a fortress of breath

     I have no answer to your divine
     inquiries only a canvas
     of bloodroot and lemon-peel
     a few words sewn into the lining
                 of my skin

iii. Apollo’s Muse: Moon in the Age of Photography exhibition, July 3 – September 22, 2019

“. . . visual representations of the moon from the dawn of photography through the present”

     A “nite-lite”
     a broken torch
     a pick-axe
     a rocket lodged
     in the man
     in the moon’s
     eye socket
     a game
     that has no

     did I say game
     I meant
         a name

iv. Two Men Contemplating the Moon, Caspar David Friedrich, c. 1825 – 1830

“. . . they pause on their evening walk through a late autumnal forest to contemplate the sinking moon and Venus, the evening star”

     On the hilltop, two merchants
     conferred, assessed their givens—
     vast stores of malt liquor
     ornately carved walnut chairs
     secured on a trip to Gdansk

     I remember that evening well
     how I emerged that night
     a waxing crescent: my dark velvet
     robe peeking open

     I remember their attempts to name
     the parts of the sunset

     frog’s Adam’s apple, said one
     the sun at the moment before it seeps
     through horizon’s cloth

     bee’s blanket, said the other
     the sun, five minutes after it drips
     honey perfumed with musk

     washer-woman’s nipple, said the first
     the moon itself
                                 (here, I blushed)

     haloed in rose-yolk
         aureole of naked pear

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