Here is Barbara Kingsolver’s original poem, “Remember the Moon Survives,” which is the poem my group used in the Poetry Seminar.
Remember the moon survives,
draws herself out crescent-thin,
a curved woman. Untouchable,
she bends around the shadow
that pushes himself against her, and she
waits. Remember how you waited
when the nights bled their darkness out
like ink, to blacken the days beyond,
to blind morning’s one eye.
This is how you learned to draw
your life out like the moon,
curled like a fetus around the
shadow. Curled in your bed,
the little hopeful flowers of your knees
pressed against the wall,
its mockery of paint,
always the little-girl colors
on the stones of the ordinary prison:
the house where you are someone’s
daughter, sister, someone’s flesh, someone’s
blood. The Lamb and Mary
have left you to float in this darkness
like a soup bone. You watch
the cannibal feast from a hidden place
and pray to be rid of your offering.
The sun is all you wait for,
the light, guardian saint of all the children
who lie like death on the wake
of the household crime. You stop
your heart like a clock: these hours
are not your own. You hide
your life away, the lucky coin
tucked quickly in the shoe
from the burglar, when he
comes. Because he will, as sure
as shoes. This is the one
with all the keys to where you live,
the one you can’t escape, and while
your heart is stopped, he takes things.
It will take you years
to learn: why you held back sleep
from the mouth that opened in the dark;
why you would not feed it with
the dreams you sealed up tight
in a cave of tears; why
the black widow still visits you,
squeezes her venom out in droplets,
stringing them like garnets
down your abdomen,
the terrifying jewelry of a woman
you wore inside, a child robbed
in the dark. Finally you know this.
You have sliced your numbness open
with the blades of your own eyes.
From your years of watching
you have grown the pupils of a cat, to see
in the dark. And these eyes are
your blessing. They will always know the poison
from the jewels that are both embedded
in your flesh.
They will always know the darkness
that is one of your names by now,
but not the one you answer to.
You are the one who knows, behind
the rising, falling tide
of shadow, the moon is always
whole. You take in silver
through your eyes, and hammer it
as taut as poems in steel
into the fine bright crescent of your life:
the surviving moon.
The personal response I have chosen to write is relative to poem in the sense that it borrows aspects of the abuse and symbolism mentioned in Kingsolver’s piece. In my piece, the narrator is a child suffering from abusive parents, and his only escape is to climb on top of his roof to watch
the moon. The theme presented in Barbara’s work I tried to reflect in my own, that after experiencing significant hardship, an individual’s capacity for adversity may increase, allowing them a higher tolerance for future adversities and greater resilience when responding to them.
Late Night, Moon Bright
The late night air filled the sky tonight, as I sat on the asphalt shingles prepared to watch the moon peak and set behind the horizon. Crickets chirped in the distance a sad love song, hoping that one day perhaps romance would find them. I wonder if they ever watch the moon and realize how great they have it. The merry life of travelling and eating, boarding around their limited world expecting to find…what? What were they expecting to find? Did they hope they could jump high enough and leap to the moon, escaping this rock? I suppose it doesn’t matter. They can’t escape; nobody can. We can’t escape ourselves, and our constant need for violence. I could hear their screams and yells through my open window echoing into the late night air and permeating to the moon’s surface.
I believe it was a year ago that this started, this whole damn mess of a life I managed to find myself in. Both of my parents maybe loved each other at one point, but I don’t think I ever was old enough to witness it myself. Some of their photo albums showed smiles and kisses but in today’s world it was frowns and bruises. Bright shiners on my mother’s eyes and purple handcuffs pushed into her wrists decorated her, and she couldn’t bear being seen by anyone. She saw it was a sign of weakness; I saw it as a sign of terror. The very terror my father instilled into her soul. Terror. I wonder if on the moon there are any terrible people, beating their wives or slapping their children. I hear that as long as you stay on the bright side of the moon you won’t see any monsters. Truth is, no matter where you go there are monster all around.
I repositioned myself on the roof, lying down and feel the rough grains of asphalt on the back of my head. The moon laid directly in front of me as I lay on that slanted lid to the household from hell. Their voices became more soft and almost sad, as it sounded like my father was crying along with my mother. I once had a dog that slept in my room every night, and he would hop onto my bed for comfort. He was constantly scared of my father, and liked to hide in my room. I like dogs. They know when you’re stressed so they help you cope, and as long as you do the same for them they’re as good as any human companion. But doors are only so strong and dogs are only animals. When he got close to the dog he was going to hit, the dog lashed out and bit him. I don’t know what happened after that, but after a lot of yelping, I never saw my friend again. In the distance I heard someone’s hound howl at the moon.
It was a waning gibbous tonight. I wish it did more than watch.
Going to school under these circumstances sure was tough, as I lost sleep staring out at the moon. I’ve always thought it’s better to daydream than to fall asleep and dream; that way, you don’t leave your happy ending up to chance. In class, I would pass out from time to time, picking opportune moments to rest my eyes when nothing important was being taught. Nobody would ask me how I was, as they were all afraid of the bruises and the restless bags under my eyes. Creep, loser, jerk. Perhaps those names would actually hurt if I wasn’t so conditioned from my experiences at home.
“You good-for-nothing goddam lazy son of a…”
Gun. I remember one point in time where a kid brought an airsoft gun they stole from their older sibling into the school. He went around at recess shooting the other children, giving them bruises and welts. You can probably guess who his favorite target was: the one who would try to sleep on the playground, wondering when the moon would come back. I have a welt the size of the moon on my shoulder, now. It hurts to lay on that side, so it’s a good thing I can rest on my back up here. They’ve started yelling again now. I can only wonder how long it will take before thing get out of hand. Before things get worse and worse like they always will. If something can go wrong, you can guarantee it will. I try to distance myself from the things I do wrong, as they are inevitable anyway. Escaping to the moon is one of the good things about distancing yourself. You gain a silent confidant that’s always there no matter what.
I remember the time when I was walking home from school, and the same boy with the gun was trying to take a classmate’s clothes off. She had backed herself into a corner and couldn’t do anything but push him away, futilely, like an abused dog whom had learned to hate humanity. The thing is, it’s never the dog’s fault for biting a person. And I liked dogs.
I walked behind the boy and slapped the back of his head, forcing him around. I was too tired to actually throw a punch at him, and I probably would have only hurt my hand in the process. My life had been spent using them to wipe up tears and blood, not fight back. He punched me in the gut hit the but of the gun against the side of my face, cutting my cheek open.The girl, in terror, fled from the scene, leaving me with the punk who thought he could get away with anything. He reminded me of my father. I got home that night bruised and battered, and hauled my body into my room. I walked passed the screaming room, and exited out my window to the roof, my sanctuary. I saw the moon was full, and couldn’t help but stare at the many flaws on its face, all of its gorges and scars.
I snapped back from my daydream with great whiplash to the sound of a smack, and the continued screaming at another. It had finally escalated. The moon held my gaze for a second longer before I heard crying again and the man saying, “Take your clothes off.” I couldn’t tighten my eyes hard enough to take the image away from my mind. My mother’s cries, a yelping like a beaten animal. A cry like a young girl held at gunpoint. I guess I learned a thing or two from the moon after all. How could I enjoy the late night air, when all I could was watch and wait for the next day?
I went back through the window, and entered my parent’s room.
Lerner, Doug. “Waning Gibbous.” Image. lerner Sept. 30, 2013. Jan 20, 2017. <http://lerner.net/this-evenings-waning-gibbous-2/>