Poetry / The English Teacher / The Social Network

“Under the Fire of the Great Moon”

I’m part lunatic. The 14th century version. I am just a bit of a nut — wildly foolish for the moon. So, when I find a poem that has a lovely line such as this: “…the bare floor spattered with moonlight” — I’m hooked. Can’t you see it? The window, framed in black. The window glass, shimmering. The floor boards, ‘spattered’ with the “lesser light that governs the night” (Genesis 1:16).

Amy Lowell’s “The Letter” features moonlight; but the poem’s words, “scrawling all over the paper” hint at unrequited love, rail against the impotency of words.

The Letter

Little cramped words scrawling all over the paper

Like draggled fly’s legs,

What can you tell of the flaring moon

Through the oak leaves?

Or of my uncurtained* window and the bare floor

Spattered with moonlight?

Your silly quirks and twists have nothing in them

Of blossoming hawthorns,

And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth, virgin of loveliness

Beneath my hand.


I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart against

The want of you;

Of squeezing it into little inkdrops,

And posting it.

And I scald alone, here, under the fire

Of the great moon.


*a version of this poem uses the word ‘uncertain’


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