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.
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.