MOON, in ten parts
For a dying father
When December crystals the hospital window, when the moon flutes to your bed, when I turn out the light, you ask for your top hat and tails. I fetch mine, too.
Nothing more to do than borrow moonlight for this journey. A baby step? A baby’s breath? Rubenesque, and plumped in love?
Hearts break dead center, in the river where the moon waits at the bend—crescent, gibbous, full. Be my huckleberry friend as we ring the rosy, pinkies linked, crown you King of the perfect fathers.
Moon on the tip of your nose, Eskimo kiss. Moon on the tip of your toes. Jitterbug kiss. Moon, sandwiched in Oreos. Let’s kiss the wafer, scrape the crème, let our teeth scream for more! more! more! time to be father and daughter.
The moon is Columbo’s glass eye, sticky with tricks, that wanders and foils the slicksters.
And while we’re at it, let’s cast the brush aside—no more watercolors, acrylics, or oils—from here on, let’s speak to the moon face-to-face about the hooey of green cheese, how we crowded around the TV, yahooed, confettied the room with buttered popcorn, the moment Neil Armstrong set those big galoofy boots for 600 million to see. And how nothing could keep us from moon walking in 1983 with Michael Jackson to “Billie Jean.”
Moon in a barrel, you never know just when the bottom will fall out. When you will open your eyes. When you will try to climb out of bed, again. You never know if I will undrape this flag of grief, left ear on your heart, left cheek on your ribs, left my wife and 48 kids, right right right in the middle of the kitchen floor. Let’s sing that song again, on our way to Murray’s Delicatessen, in our corduroy shoes, switch the hops of our feet. Live inside of the beat. Silly, for pastrami on rye.
I shift your pillow closer to the moon. Shift to the denouement, to fatherless. Shift to your hands and feet, a minty blue. Shift to the miles of junk for the dump—Spic and Span your condo. Shift to your face, concave and hollowed. Shift to the Strawberry milk, our darling. Shift my hips, fidget for a script. Shift to the gurgle in your throat, swab the mucous. Shift my last words from death march to Boogie Woogie, watch you fire the keys. Lay it down with “Chicago Stomps” and “Honky Tonk Train.” Bugle Boy, Bugle Boy, Company C.” I shift your pillow closer to the moon.
Now I understand how the third verse of moon and the third verse of longing are spun. Over, under, over, under, knit one purl two, loop de loop, dress the loom for tabbies, twills and satins. I understand, now, the act of clinging, the floss by floss unbuttoning, in this ropy slow motion.
Spanning continents, your in-breath, Nathan. Out-breath, Nathan. We cradle your shoulders, cheeks, crown of your head. Thread of gray hair that sits like a sage to an aria of grace, disappears the moon.
“Moon, in ten parts” originally appeared in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, Vol. 15, 2011.
Ann Teplick is a Seattle poet, playwright, prose writer, and teaching artist, with an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. For eighteen years she’s written with youth in schools, juvenile detention centers, psychiatric hospitals and hospice centers–working with Pongo Teen Writing, Writers in the Schools, Powerful Schools, Richard Hugo House, and Coyote Central. Her work has appeared in Crab Creek Review, Drash, Chrysanthemum, Hunger Mountain, Reality Mom, Honest Potatoes, Jack Straw Writers’ Anthology, Washington State Geospatial Anthology,and others. Her plays have been showcased in Washington, Oregon, and Nova Scotia. In 2010, she participated in the Artist Trust EDGE Personal Development Program for Writers. In 2010/11 she received funding from Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and 4Culture for a collection of poetry The Beauty of a Beet, Poems from the Bedside. In 2011 she was a Hedgebrook and Jack Straw fellow. She is currently a member of the Washington State Arts Commission’s Teaching Artist Training Lab.