Follow Us:
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful! Poetry inspired by the moon

Myth, metaphor or metonym? How do poets listen to their eternal muse? What do they see in it?

Updated: July 14, 2019 6:40:19 am
Myth, metaphor, metonym, SundayEYE, indianexpress, SundayEYE, EYE 2019, poetry, poems, stanzas, Louis XIV, sunday special, Karthika Nair, earth, moon, sun, kiss, first kiss, memories, romance, love, relationships, Poets and their muse.(Illustration: Suvajit Dey)

Mystery Redoubled

How shall we address thee, O Moon
In thy eternal inconsistency?

Four-faced flower of the night,
Shine of reflected light,
Dead satellite
Who draws our heartblood
& clouds our dreams that
Orbit us like moons, seen and unseen.

You are:
Gelid globe who ignites the Arts,
Myth and metaphor, metonym too,
Goddess, god and prospective colony.
(That’s a load to sustain
In your airless low-gravity realm!)
At your fullest you sleep-deprive life.
Protect herbivores, stall
Lions from killing.

Pearled fist of the sky
Civilisations still fight
Over your gender.
(You’re a hair ornament, too!
What does that make you?)

Induce lycanthrope and lunacy
Itching, irritability, epilepsy.
Promote cooling, especially helpful
For pitha dosha; chakori birds feed
On your beams ineffable.
Protect from wars’ hurdles
As Red Crescent granting safe passage to vehicles.
Yet you
Were proxy in the Cold War. Earthlings walked
Your waterless sea, mouthing lines of fake generosity.
When full you ring
With the Buddha’s compassion.
As crescent you’re hilal
Crowned by a six pointed star.
Silver Melon, you hold Soma —
Divine bridge between earth
and heaven, leading the gods
to inebriation.

Women’s menstruation is looped to your
Circling. Enchanter, your dark side stays hidden yet
The sea’s your lover, arching its breasts as you draw near,
Its skin billowing mirrors of your beauty. The torture!

Dead yourself, you’re fecundity’s symbol:
As Chandra Devta, you’re Nourisher of Plants,
Linked to goddesses from Phoenician Tanit to
The warrior Diane you’re sexuality and protection,
Even of vegetation. Though arid, you morph
Into emblems of water and lure. Shimmer —
Shimmering Moon you hold contradictions, galore.

All lovers love you —
Love your pock-marked face.
Love’s gossamer grows from your
Aura into passion: as scarlet lips on blue
Bodies bruised by giving — but not giving up.

Set up the altars:
On my knees
I’ll howl at each one to Thee.

Or my poem could be:
light my way
though the urban forest
of the night, I pray.

– By Priya Sarukkai Chabria

This evening in Delhi

when the auto climbs
the Lodhi Road flyover

and the two modernist arms
of the Methodist Church
take God’s shape

for that half-a-second
your eyeline swims through
the shikhars of the basti’s Shiv temple
straight to the finial — princely green —
of the white-as-milk dome
of the Khilji Mosque
in whose shadow
sleeps Nizamuddin, beloved
of God, Mahbub-e-Ilahi, lying here
eight hundred years, he will outlive us
all, our prince, till the half-second
passes, you climb down
just as his dome’s white
catches the last of the sunlight
and you realise

one doesn’t always have to travel
four hundred thousand kilometres
to reach the moon.

– By Akhil Katyal

The Problem with the Moon

is habit.

She’s been around
too much
and too long.

Think of the baying wolves
and weeping lovers,
the gypsy violins in Cordoba,
odes that still leave a tremor
of longing across
forgotten goat tracks in Crete,
buried temples in Assyria,

or all the times she’s played illicit chief guest
on Venetian balconies,
in Sangam poems,
in beaches
of stardust
and vertigo,

all the times we’ve obediently aligned
our hormones, our harvests, our enlightenments,
with her shivering ripeness
her cussed truancy.

The problem
with the moon
is habit. And hype.

When she’s full
she’s never quite
full enough.

When she’s new,
she simply isn’t
new enough.

Yes, she has a way
of cutting through
dish antennae,
and human distraction

even deigning
to be trampled underfoot,

to be mirrored
in broken whisky bottles
in roadside garbage heaps.

And she’s punctual to a fault
about that monthly crash course
in mortality.

She’s simply

and yet,
it’s been a while

since we actually
saw her.

Think of the times she’s looked in
at a window,

for just a moment too luminous
for cliché —

the oddball cousin you always
meant to get to know better —

and how she
slipped away


out of reach,

leaving you wondering
before the world butts in again —

what really is moon-ness?

Where does the Eagle land?
On a snowburst of myth?

Or a stainless enormity
of absence?

And even if we manage
to touch her

do we ever quite understand?

Does it help
to walk her alien boulevards,
pause at the edge
of her ancient potholes,
to hop and float
across the bubble-gum wobble
of her terrain?

Does it bring us any closer?

And what if
we were to turn
our gaze heavenward,
(as we so often do),

and find ourselves infatuated
with a fragile orb,
spinning to her own tune,

in a peacock-blue delirium

across aeons
of sky?

What if we were to fall
head over heels

in love
with that tired old habit,

the one we live and love
and die on,

but never quite see?

Could touching
a not-so-new moon

possibly mean

a new earth?

– By Arundhathi Subramaniam


A bloody moon tonight —
stained, solitary
and outcast.

The railway tracks gleam and glide
on their way to nowhere
with a memory

of voices. Once, even thoughts
clattered in time
to the trains’ rhythms.

But tonight the moon is red
and the shattered debris
remembers its shape.

It is the railway tracks,
like slit throats,
that grin at the empty sky.

– By Sridala Swami

The Man and the Moon

The man sits on the dying edge of the road.
He might fall off the hill,
like night tears and falls from the day.
Those bruises we see every morning,
light’s scars, scratched every day.
The man’s old — the curve of time’s in his spine.
The wind bends like a hat to greet his back.
Light — tyrant — comes last here, paying a late fine.
I rub my eyes, as if that’d uncrease the sky.
But the moon is now an infant boy –
tickled, it’s throwing its thin limbs,
it burps, it crouches, it hides, it’s shy.
Later, it flatters, like only light can,
before dishevelling inside the eye.
Tired, it yawns, its flesh loosens,
its swaddling clothes slip.
And at last — the sky’s scalp begins to fill.
Light’s tar? Or is it light’s rag mopping the hill?
No, it’s an army of dust; no, swollen worms —
there’s a stampede of light in the sky.

The moon’s stolen. The robbed man walks away.
It is now day.

– By Sumana Roy


Unstinting moon,
to uninitiate ears,
our monthly dialogue’s
always out of tune,
a long-drawn howl on one side
and you, sweet pudding, silent.

It’s earth, my raw
deal with just a bit of bone in it
for all the bones it’s had
that’s proving lean and tough. Strange
earless creatures go about their ways,
hearing no music, making none,
who find plain talk enough. And muzzled
poets who, unintelligible.
to the earless multitudes,
turn to you, like me, but bark,
bang chains, bitch like my best wives,
as the whips get worse.

– By Adil Jussawalla
excerpted from Missing Person, (Clearing House, 1976)

Meridians II

Vieux Lyon, midnight overhead.
This is where I leave
(a mere vowel away from two coveted words):
a drunken, callow moon close at heel,
the humped
cobblestones of Croix-Rousse;
I slip out through an unseen traboule,
though the fragrance from your dreams
must linger in my breath
for he reappears (more surefooted),
catching up with me
by the Saône.

RaceacrossPlaceBellecour —

Steeplechasing stoned lovers
slogans installations
a few SDF
— to board the last noctambus,
but trip
on Louis XIV’s elongated shade,


a fistful of memories
over wet, red earth.
The moon, sober
from a dunk in the clouds,
steadies my thoughts and guides
feet up the hill that prays,
his hand in mine all along
the ox-bow paths from Saints Jean to Just,


for a first kiss near the funiculaire,
one more
for the road,
and another on the threshold: I let him be
(pretend it’s you)
until he revs from gallant to persistent,
then slam
the door on long liquid fingers,
and pull down grey flannel blinds of sleep
on every window in my head.

– By Karthika Naïr
excerpted from Bearings
(HarperCollins India, 2009)

This article appeared in the print edition with the headline ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful!’

For all the latest Eye News, download Indian Express App