Q: Where do the people live who don’t live here anymore?
A: They might live on the moon.
I’ve heard my father say things about the moon: man-made, hollow, pulled there by tugboats beyond our reckoning. That you can see lights on its dark side: language carved into the moon like roads.
Like the moon wasn’t love or capable of loving the tides and our warm insides.
What has man ever made that was moon-like in its composition? A thing which would beat like a heart in circles around the earth, that could pull all the oceans at once in great ovals, that could render all the women barren or fertile with its light and with its pull. A thing that would shake the water in us like rivers in a dull throb at our eardrums. A thing that would lay its cycles so neatly across such long swathes of time that it would be studied, marveled and admired by all humans throughout the ages without the need for signs or instructions, only the quiet contemplation of a body moving across such a large sky.
Each person here has a mother who is a star, a mother who holds a star in her fist.
The moon loves Jim. The moon is hanging in the sky thinking about Jim. Jim is very sick. “Terminal” is what the doctors tell him and what his family try not to say but hear in their heads like a drum. The moon is thinking about Jim in his own dark sky, suspended, just as the moon, neither tied to anything nor free to move in any direction. Terminal is not a velocity in Jim’s life though it offers him the perception that he travels at a new and hurried speed towards the end of his life. The future, once open and promised, now lies beyond the moon’s darker half.
Jim sits in the night sky and watches the stars. Jim is all the ages at once that he has ever been sitting and watching the stars. It is summer, winter, spring and autumn all at once. There are lightning bugs, fireworks, snow; the Big Dipper is there and all the constellations he knew as a boy and forgot later. He and the moon talk about where the dead live. The moon tells Jim that the dead live here, on the moon. “But you are not a star yet. First a star, then the moon. All of the stars are mothers,” says the moon. “You have a future yet.” Jim asks the moon if his mother is a star. The moon shrugs. “The stars are mothers until they aren’t anymore and then they come here. You must pass through life to understand the house I live in. Then you may live here also. But you may not be a mother very soon. There are other manifestations to pass through first, but you will have to ask the sky.”
It’s high tide on the moon, love. The tide carves roads into the low moon like cities. The cities on the moon are made of ice, rock, dust and love which has a long reach. Gravity is one name for love; light another. There are many other names. The cities there are not cities like you think. They are deep wells of cold water that are pushed around the moon in circles. Our lives are too short to see the ice shift and change and carve new channels. Under the ice live warm things, bodies, with great thick hair and fur. They live deep under, at the center of the moon where it is still hot and liquid. They are golden and breathe steam. As yet, we have not named them, but we could call them love. They turn and turn and pull and pull and swim through the golden center. Each planet, each body of rock that hangs in the black world without sound has a golden center. These centers call one another and swim and pulse and pull us all in circles. Dancing is one name for these circles; orbit another. Whatever the name, we spin and move.
Hello, mother–star–I’ve missed you.
Hello, Jim, my bright boy.
Hello, father–rock like a moon–I missed you in the last days.
Hello, son. I’ve missed you also. You know I still drive trucks on these roads? Except the roads are time-lines and the trucks are trajectories, memories, pulses of light. I’m learning. Isn’t your mother bright?
She is, and you are, too.
And you, son. Where to?
I’m not sure what you mean.
The star mother says, You get to choose this time. You get to choose where and when and who.
That’s easy. Julie, Molly, Luke. Jeannine, Jane, Joyce. North Manchester. Indianapolis. Indiana. The woods. The highways. The deer. The 4th of Julys. The hot summer nights. All the numbers. The deepest snows. All the car trouble. All the love and all the fights. Mack.
It won’t be exact, says the father-rock like a moon.
Is it like that every time?
Mostly. People usually choose what they love. But it takes time. You’ll want to rest and wait a while, get to know the place.
Just think of rest and it will come. Think of a map and it will unfold before you. You thought of your mother and I and we came. Do you feel tired?
No. Just light.
Explore then, go watch a supernova. Let all that color fill you up. If you need help, just think of us, any one of us. There’s a long line of ancestors out here.
There’s a woman on the grass about to give birth, she’s splitting open like soil, I can see through to her red earth, that true one, that flesh-pink one. Hello, flesh-pink earth, the world says.
Goodbye, flesh-pink earth, the new one says. Hello air, rough as rocks on my skin. The cells split and form, cluster in the flesh-pink and the grass-green. There’s love.
The blue sky swallows the moon to welcome the morning.
Only the sea knows it’s still there.
Anne Marie Basquin lives by the ocean in Dunedin, New Zealand, but spent most of her childhood in the United States. She is 29 years old and splits her time between showing up to the page, digging in soil, and working to make ends meet. She loves to plant trees, swim, and write fiction. Her poetry has been published in a compilation celebrating women artists called Let’s Roar Loudly.
What word, English or otherwise, seems to lift off the page? Heart, river, canyon. They shimmer over the page like threads to the heart of the story. These words lead me somewhere and they come from somewhere. They might come from a place I haven’t been to in a long time or a place I think I might be going. Words like: Georgia, the woods, oceans, savannah. Words that start something, that are the hearts or the tips of things.
Art — Priscilla Boatwright is an illustrator and writer working in San Antonio. She is fascinated with myth, magic, and the connections between cultural identity and art. Priscilla received her BFA in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. See more of her artwork at http://cargocollective.com/boatart.
Back to Issue 5: Things that Float