Monday, May 11, 2009

"Emily Moon"

Eberle asked me the other day where the phrase “like dice shook” that keeps popping up in the Ghazals came from. It’s actually a case of quoting myself, tho a much younger self. It comes from a poem I wrote in 1986 in Charlottesville called “Emily Moon”—it may be my favorite amongst the many poems good, bad & indifferent I wrote during that time.

“Emily Moon” was part of a larger sequence called the Advent poems. Although the poems aren’t religious in theme, they did have to do with expectancy & absence & presence (all those good poetic themes!); all of them were written in 6 line stanzas similar to the form you see here. Based on the sequence title, you’d presume that I planned 24 or 25 of these, & that would be true. However, only 17 were ever written; while I personally like this poem best, all 17 were among the best poems I wrote during those years. It’s interesting to me that the sonnet sequence I wrote in San Francisco about 10 years after the “Advent” poems also stopped at 17 poems. The Ghazal sequence is currently at 14—ah well, best not to think about such things….

I included two audio clips—one is of the April 24th Ghazal, the first one in the sequence, & one that quotes the “dice shook” line; in case you missed that poem, here’s a link to the post. I also included a separate clip of yours truly reading “Emily Moon” during a reading I gave at 2nd Street Gallery in Charlottesville, VA in March 1987. The audio on this one is ok, but it wasn’t recorded thru a good condenser mike like the ghazals—it was recorded on a boombox.

By the way, I should acknowledge that “Emily Moon” was originally published in Timbuktu, a wonderful lit mag from back in the 80s; at the time I published under the name Jack Hayes. I’ll always be grateful to Timbuktu founder & editor Molly Turner for her enthusiastic support of my writing.

Hope you enjoy this one.

Emily Moon

The good ones, sure, earliest steal away,
And, as the afternoon moon,
However extravagant, also shy,
Looks lost over a disenchanted day
Paling, so Emily from each love and town,
Ran, silvery, away.

That's how, half-way or in-between,
Up in the air, some creatures learn to stay alive.
The best, first, learn to fly,
And I, grounded, watched her careen,
Her bracelets jingling to bind, above
This cruel world. Lightly though she shone,

She, tremulously, kept high
When set off, scattering like scattershot,
Fated and powdery;
Her glances, laughs (like dice shook) denied, denied.
Please swing low, sweet chariot.
But, distant, she survived.

And once in a blue moon, bluer than her eye shadow,
She, spiritually, into my room
Wavered or slipped, wary as a spy,
And when we kissed, this shivered like a window's
Winter scene when white light gleams.
Then, she'd change to go.

Emily, you chose most the gray
Gloaming, but after a dozen beers,
Like the harvest moon, excitable, frizzy,
Your orange hair drank light.
But light can't stay. You caught the train to a state that wouldn't scare.
You left the world every which way.

John Hayes
© 1986-2009


  1. I see why it may be your favourite! I've been thinking of using the moon seen in the daytime as an image for a while - it's kind of inconspicuous, but there - shy, as you put it.

  2. Thanks John.
    Blogging is actually a really good Medium for Poetry.
    I would love to know how it feels to hear your young voice again ?

  3. Hi Dominic & Tony:

    Dominic: I have always been fascinated with the daytime moon, & it really seemed to fit in this case.

    Tony: I came across a tape of that reading last spring & hadn't listened to it for years before that. It was a bit startling at that point particularly, especially a little trace of a Virginia accent plus the sort of unavoidable "grad school" accent on top of that. Some changes voice-wise in the past 22 years.

    & yes, I agree with you re: blogging & poetry.

  4. I'll be back to listen soon.
    Do you ever think of a line or phrase and wonder where it came from and then realize it's your own. That's a weird feeling.


  5. Hi Kat:

    What's happened more to me is recycling lines-- lines that I really liked in poems that didn't work eventually ended up in poems that did. Of course, in this case I'm deliberately recycling.

  6. How wonderful to hear your beautiful voice! Wish we could see you, too (I'm greedy).

    How do you decide what your "best" poems are? What's the criteria? I can't imagine because they are all so different. Altogether they're the best at least I think so.

  7. "so Emily from each love and town,
    Ran, silvery, away." Lovely. Just lovely.

  8. Hi Reya & Sandra:

    Reya: I look at three separate phases in my poetry writing (four if I count the really old stuff from Vermont, but that material really doesn't hold any interest for me & hasn't for a long while). When I say "Emily Moon" is a favorite, I mean it's a favorite from the Charlottesville phase-- to compare it to the SF poems or the Idaho ones would really be apples & oranges. So glad you liked it!

    Sandra: Thanks a lot!

  9. have you published at a minimum a chap book? also, i have a kazillion casette tapes of my dad's poetry, music, letters, sermons. did you have casette recordings, and if so, what equipment did you use to get the recordings into a web-accessible format?

    i love the whole poem, but favorite lines - bracelets jingling and the one about the orange hair drank the light.

    i think i recall that lit journal b/c i worked in the periodical section of a library duruing that time. i guess it's no more?

  10. Hi Jen:

    No chap book or other book. I'll be remedying that this year-- possibly even this month-- with a self-published book of my San Francisco poems. I'd also like to self-publish the Charlottesville poems & as things progress, the Idaho ones as well.

    I got very disenchanted with the publishing game, & by the time I reached San Francisco, where I think I was doing some good work, I largely just stopped trying to publish. I enjoyed giving readings a lot-- always did-- & I read pretty regularly in SF.

    Timbuktu only published 5 issues-- I have all five & they are among my cherished possessions. I appeared in a couple of them. The editor, Molly Turner, published a generous selection of my work, including a number of the "Advent" poems. Timbuktu had some great writing/photos/illustrations-- Eberle was in one or two issues as well! & there were some folks who've gone on to make some splash, including poets Jonah Winter & Priscilla Sneff, & poet turned TV writer turned blogger E.A. Gehman (now Eddie Gehman Kohan). I think Molly may have had Timbuktu distributed to libraries, but I can't recall.


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