NIGHT, MOONLIGHT, and STARS
Copyright © 2006 Mark Koslow.
All Rights Reserved.
Note: I did some of these paintings at
nighttime with only a flashlight to show me the way to move my brush on the
paper or board.
Five Odes: to Moonlight, Henry Thoreau and the Night
Pulled toward the depths of my own mystery of being
I had to go, I couldn't stay away from looking
through the large telescope
in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History
drawn by the intimate infinity
of planets nestled in the endless.
Mars floated so lonely in such a vast space,
dry red brother to earth
hints of "canals" and palisades
under its yellow sky.
Another visit to the telescope and we saw Saturn,
just at the time
the extraordinary Cassini-Huygens photos came out.
I climbed the stairs to the telescope in a spiral
traced not by my feet but by my mind
turning my eyes to the zenith
and through the glassy lenses
clear as Galileo's refusal to deny the earth moves
the moon glistened white powder
and I could see the mountain cliffs
glowing on the edge of the cratered night.
So amazed by this sight
by implication, I could see back to the earth,
and actually feel the
tidal light mirrored back to me
for the first time
the image of the earth as a globe, floating
cloud covered, in the limitless ocean of space
was not just an image, but a fact I could feel in my feet.
All gods gone,
Dante's cruel universe falls away
like an over-written comic book
and I was at last a child
of a physical universe
and unashamed of the love
I felt for the furthest stars
clear as a tear of joy in my eye
with moonlight on my face
happy to be home.
I don't know how long it has been,
since I was a young man in my teens, perhaps,
when I noticed, every month,
that you wax and grow toward me,
filling me with a thrill of strange expectations,
a bioluminescence that makes my arms hairs quiver
a promise of transparent fruits
and the brilliant glow of silver mirrors,
and then you wane and go away
leaving me alone to myself, and wandering.
Moonlight on the Pacific
It is not just the mystery of the tides you bring---
opening littoral zones for mussels and starfish,
bathing the tide pools in pearlescence,
exciting the sand grains with seminal light--
but you bring a tide into my mind, and deeper,
touch my heartbeat, and stir my cells
until my body feels as delicate
as the arms of an Hydra
or a Jellyfish drunk with phosphorescence
almost as if a bioluminescent twilight
turned my body into a colony of kelp
and I drift and dance like an otter in the waves
swelling and cresting
in your opalescent dream.
The froth of feeling swells on the waves of half lit sleep
just now waking up
like new thoughts in the midnight surf.
Moonlight on the Creek
(where salt water meets fresh water)
But you are no dream,
nights are lonely without you
and when you wax full in spring,
the new leaves are nearly electric with desire
as if a pale blue mist powders all the flower petals
and I think feelingly into the dark
delicate and translucent,
the whole world is like my skin
fragrant with midnight awareness,
and almost laughing with a joy of being,
as if covered with a pollen of sapphire light
and longing to be pregnant
longing for the pain of fruiting
longing for love and the mingling of fish-- the
water splashing miracle of spawning--
until my eyes feel as full of life as candles burning
and the night air is a rain of magnolia petals
and the embrace of the world surrounds me
with wildflower starlight
as soft as the skin of my wife
and all around me in the blue lustre
is the meaning of life under the moon.
Wetland, Egret, and Watching the
I am aware there are those haunted by the
and think it lunatic and mercurial.
But the only thing haunting about the moon is its beauty.
Those who associate the moon with commercialized witchery,
the Halloween industry of goblins and gore---
that exploits fear of nature for profit---
have mistaken the strange loveliness of the moon,
the silver aura of its fragile hopes,
for their own guilty conscience.
The fear of the moon is the fear of life,
the fear of grunions glistening in the sea froth
as they mate
the irrational fear that puritans have of a 'wilderness'
that their ignorance makes them despise.
The "evil witch" and the "savage beast"
are mere images and creations of a repressive arrogance.
Those who hated nature, hated ordinary people,
hated the harvest festivals,
where unjust powers were lampooned,
hated the Indian and the female
and created these images of their own hate.
The "evil witch" is the hateful heart of the Puritan
The "Savage Beast" is the behavior of some Euro-Americans
The way of nature is threatening to those
who live in sterile glass boxes of imaginary perfections.
The life of alien abstractions,
religious utopias of divorced steel cities,
delusional suburban havens,
creates the lie of human exceptionalism
and this demonizes nature and animals
and turns the moon into an object of fear.
A midnight scarecrow frightens no one,
not even himself, standing lonely in the corn.
There is nothing to fear in the moon.
Love of the moon is the love of life.
It is an orb softer than the belly of vegetables
and its light brings seeds into delicate shoots
fashioning innocent mushrooms out of the loam.
Ode to Henry Thoreau's book of Moonlight
Henry Thoreau wrote what is probably the best
ever written about the experience of moonlight,
far more accurate than the romantic paintings
of Ryder and Blakelock, lovely as they can be.
I discovered Henry's book over the course
of a number of years, digging through the wild vastness
of his journal, which wanders everywhere, like nature,
over hills, cul de sacs, past glistening lakes---
Henry's thoughts ---
like twilight gems, invisible mushrooms of insight,
glowing in the forests.
Henry read the Moonlight manuscript out loud as a lecture
in Plymouth Massachusetts on Oct. 8, 1854,
and appears to have amended it over succeeding years.
Sometime after Henry died in 1862, some foolish person
bent on profiting from manuscripts,
sold off pages of the Moonlight book
and the order of the manuscript was lost.
No one has, as yet,
been able to put it back together again.
It is scattered like dappled moonlight on the forest floor.
I gathered all the pieces I could find
like silver leaves fallen from a lunar tree
and tried to intuit his meaning.
I opened the hidden cover of Henry's book and
luminous Luna Moths came flying
the green pages, their flying wings
lit with ecologic phosphor and night-candles of the sea.
You were right Henry,
when you wrote that attending to the "hints and suggestions"
of moonlight will result in something different
than anything in "literature or religion of philosophy".
Even in its current scattered chaos
your Moonlight book throws off
the bone-chilled and bitter falsehoods of
the history of conquerors,
and is luminous with the fresh light
of the humble and actual.
Henry , you are the
brother I never had---
comrade of what looks out of my eyes
and what the looking sees.
You grasped that the meaning of moonlight
is a "dreaming frog"----
Yes, a dream of frogs,---
the high trill of Chorus Frogs twines in time
with the crystal bells of Spring Peepers
and the long pulses of singing Toads---
the unfrozen heart-beat of spring beating--
in a musical rapture of struck glass and
a dreamtime throng of Frogs in a water world,
over the melted ponds and wet meadows---
like a vegetable clock, a crazy, verdant metronome
strangely set to moon-time
and white wildlflowers
and the dreaming Frog's recited pulses,
erotic with midnight
and unseen growth
and the whole world
is a transparency of plants
and the glistening skin of Frogs--- a permeable membrane,
of sand grains, mica-gems, swept-sandy stars
----a skin delicate with listening
like a Medicine Man's mind drunk with receptivity
telling the earth of its health or sickness.
The moon is a frog's skin rapt with intuitions.
The moon that pulls the tides
is as pearl-soft as a Frog's skin, soft as a tiny flower
brushing against the pregnant belly of an Elephant,
soft as a pink Jelly Fish sliding in accidental caress
the belly of a newborn whale.
Henry, you knew that a Frog's dream
of what the world means
is a more accurate representation of what is real
than many a human-animal's assessment.
You did not suggest we "derange the senses",
as Rimbaud did, as if that would help anyone:
"Clarify your senses" , you say,
look with more than just your eyes.
The magical crystal tones of Peepers and Toads
make evening into concert of Glowworms.
The silence of Firefly music surrounds
the silver branches of Pine trees
and dark green hands feel
into the still poetry of space.
Moonlight is simple like "water and bread", you said,
and you hoped people would take nightwalks abroad
so that the mysteries of midnight
might teach them to open their ears and eyes
to all the simple beings and things misunderstood
in the habitual inadvertence of daylight.
You thought, rightly,
that only if they really understood
the secrets of fruits
the meaning of the colors of autumn leaves,
would they see the need to free the slaves,
and let birds go from cages,
and abandon the halls of unjust knowledge
and subscribe to the library of forests.
If only vain princes and forked tongued politicians
could be as handsome and honest as frogs !!
Knowing a single pond with sympathy
might undo the corruption of institutions.
Henry, I meet you in the Civil Disobedience of Frogs----
of Kangaroos and Pronghorn leaping over fences.
I meet you
in the over-brimming diversity of forests and jungles
and the unhindered breach of whales twisting
into a splash of exultant waters.
I meet you in the social justice of twilight and blue snow
and the equality of tides and sunshine.
I meet you in the biology of fairness that children
and Armadillos have not yet learned to forget.
I believe in the Declaration of Independence
of Caribou and Tree Frogs, Pine Martens and Minnows.
I believe in the right of Walking Sticks and Woodcocks
to privacy and invisibility.
I believe in the furious journeys of Salmon
rushing red and silver up impossible creeks.
I believe in the revolutionary serenity of tree trunks
and the consciousness of ignored plants.
I believe in the intelligence of climates and cellular growth
and sunset over the Beartooth mountains
and the non-cooperative non-violence
of 'weeds', Newts and Salamanders
hovering in the balance of waters
and condors rising up on tipped wings.
Henry, I meet you where the Loon laughs
into the bright mirror of the erotic moon.
You were a character Henry,
bending down to look through your own legs,
to see the moon or trees upside down----
like an owl with its head upside down---
always trying to get a different perspective----
if only to grasp with new eyes,
what the world says about itself,
is already apparent,
if only one would try to be open
to all the meanings of
"sunlight on a bank side in autumn"
or moonlight reflected in the lens of a rabbits eye..
Listening to Moonlight
The moon is liquid imagination,
feelings liberated in the dark
and in the wide eyed mystery
of seeking more to be revealed,
the mind creates a magic world
or rather uncovers the magic
that was dulled by old habit.
Trees breathe starlight through the blue mist
and Fireflies blink moving patterns of light---
echoes of the emerald stars above---
seeking a discrete and phosphorescent love
over the hushed excitement
of the ghostly green
and glowing meadow.
I have heard Wolves in the mist and Coyote duets
under the moon
and my own beloved dog, a white Shepard,
would remember his wolf origin when the moon was full
and would let out the purest liquid cry of longing I have ever heard.
I learned my dog had the heart of a poet
and a coyote's understanding of the moon's reality.
What the moon has to say
is not an easy thing to hear:
The meaning of life is life itself.
This is what Coyotes know
and those that cannot hear this
fear the wildness of Wolves and Coyotes.
Tule Elk and the Evening Star
The moon is about longing
about blood and sap flowing
about the longing to be together
and the hope of holding on, holding out,
holding on to others
until one can get home.
It is about crossing over in the dark
through the forest and over crystal mountains
to where we have always been
and where we belong together.
The song of the Coyote is the song of the earth
longing for more life,
just as the wild bugling of Elk
sounds a cry for the females over the hills.
The silver mourning dove
sleeping on a twig in the moonlight
is like my own heart
remembering why we are alive.
Tule Elk and Full Moon
I am aware that for astronauts
the meaning of the moon was a bag of rocks.
But rocks can be the meaning of what is soft,
since the earth and the moon were made of molten stone,
agates and jasper, carnelian and turquoise
bringing stones to life in coral reefs
and lichens on boulders glowing green and orange.
Understood from the earth,
uncurls the fronds of ferns,
the hair of my arms stands on end,
and the push and pull of the waters
calls me to where my speechless talking
asks the question and tells the answer
of why clams are crescent shaped,
why the lizard tail curls in sleep
and why the abalone shell reflects color inward
and that the full turning of the Owls head
tells the forest why it is.
The silence of the long mountains
signals to the stars
the meaning of why light lies down
in the valleys
and persuades the plants to flower.
Earth, Stones and Night Sky
What there is is coming, and what there is is
There is no paradox that though I sleep
I shall awake.
What there has been while I have been here
is the moon above my head, feeling my extent
and the earth reaching out below my feet,
and everything is in the reaching,
the feeling, the touching.
I feel the stones of the earth
reaching through my fingertips
and distant stars look out of my eyes
and I feel the growth of plants at my feet
as if it were my own blood flowing in them.
The moon that flows with my feelings
follows the wind that comes and goes
and brings me to an earth that holds me
even as it leaves me alone.
The moon that is lost will come again
and all that is past will return,
changed, but the same.
Let me not forget that the tides come and go
and the sea that passes me over
will one day reveal me at last.
All that lives seeks light, even in the dark.
My old friend with the sad face brightening,
the moon, has followed me for years now
until I turned myself around
and then I followed the moon.
But it does not matter who leads or follows:
everything depends on the cherishing of what passes.
The moon has always been my mime and mirror
reflecting the delicate sadness in beauty.
When the moon is gone, I miss it,
and when it reappears, I am glad.
I have loved the moon most of my life
and those who love me will see something of me there,
even though I might be gone.
Moonlight and Redwoods
The moon is a remembrance of those who have loved.
Whenever I see it
and even if it is hidden
I must remember to cherish more closely
whomever, and whatever
I love and am intimate with.
The moon is the mirror of what is lovable on earth
and when you see it,
cherish the plants that hold its light
the water that washes you,
the places where the birds are flying
the hand that holds your hand,
the animals by your side.
The moon is the memory of what you loved.
Hold it in your eyes and heart
as dear as those that went away
never to come back,
as special as those you love
who will return to you
their faces glowing like the moon.
Heron and Moon (detail)
Copyright © 2006 Mark Koslow.
All Rights Reserved.