The Dark Side of the Moon – A Poem by Cynthia Pitman

The Sheep Pen – Jean-Francois Millet

Submitted by Cynthia Pitman

The moon does not “hang” in the sky,
as the poets like to say.
It charges hard through the dark,
shining its light on all our secrets,
making the wild wolves howl in envy
of its reach and its might.
It pushes through the sky,
tied to its minion in thrall, the earth,
looping around and around,
a whirligig spun by gravity and ferocity.
Nowhere is there a sphere more dangerous.
Lovers sigh, and think it a silent partner,
a fellow conspirator in their love,
one whose halo glows around their passion.
But it is not.
It is a cold, hard, dark rock
that threatens to force itself free
from the frigid grip of gravity
and spiral down to the ground
to crush their hearts
before break of day comes
and they crush one another’s.

About the Poet

Cynthia Pitman has had poetry published in Literary Yard and Right Hand Pointing. The title of the RHP issue,The White Room, was from her poem, and the artwork was designed around it. She has poetry forthcoming inAmethyst Review and Postcard Poems and Prose, and a short story forthcoming in Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art.

For the first time in nearly five years, Vita Brevis is closed for submission. Read the full story here.

26 thoughts

  1. I like almost everything about this poem except the physics. If the moon were to free itself of earth’s gravity, it would slip away into space, not crash to earth. Perhaps you could reconcile this by having the moon “submit” to gravity instead. Also, although I like the _idea_ of the earth being the moon’s minion, the physical relationship is actually reversed.

    However, I do very much like all of the places where you’re writing _against_ common ways of thinking about the moon. And the language is good too (secrets, envy, ferocity, dangerous).

    I wonder if the last line could be omitted altogether. Maybe just end with “to crush their hearts / before break of day.” That has an elusive finality about it; we know what “break of day” means here.

    1. I agree with ending the poem at “before the end of day”, but I like the strange views of the scientific reality of the moon. The writer turns it upside-down!

    2. Phil, your comment inspired me to write a poem called “The Laws of Physics.” I want to send it to Brian and see what he thinks. In that one, too, I take some “ poetic license.” I hope it’s less confusing. Thank you for the comment.

  2. “Nowhere is there a sphere more dangerous.”

    –I’m jealous of this line. Its powerful and beautiful. Well done.

  3. @rivrvlogr: “is just as poetic as hanging in the sky”.

    Well, no. The poem already acknowledges earlier how gravity works. The petals of a whirligig (moon) are attached (gravity) to the base (earth). If a petal breaks, it flies away.

    Perhaps “force itself free / from the frigid grip of gravity” could be dropped. Then you just have “threatens to spiral down”. I think that’s a purer metaphor that isn’t quite so distracting or confusing. The idea is that something is gonna smash the lovers’ romantic ideals.

    1. Yes. They’re going to smash one another’s. Such is love. From the comments, I’m not sure the poem worked cohesively in expressing that love Inevitably destroys itself. I tried to use the moon as an omen of that by reversing its properties. In other words, not the romantic, passive moonlight, but the malevolent, threatening moondark. I’m not sure it worked. I did have to use “poetic license” with the physics. Thank you for the comment!

    2. If, in falling, the moon defies logic, it’s no different than it defying the “power” the earth has over it, and I see that as poetic. Cynthia’s explanation later in the comments below reinforces that opinion.

  4. Thank you to all of you for your thoughtful and helpful comments. I did have some difficulty trying to upend the “physics” (I like that!) so that the moon was in charge, hence underscoring its threat, and thus figuratively upending the romance of the lovers, which they will inevitably do themselves. (I know — a bleak view of romance!) I do understand about omitting the gravity image. I’ve found my poetry usually gets better when I take words out rather than put words in!
    Thank you. I really appreciate your responses.

  5. This piece works for me magically, mysteriously, poetically. Makes me think of Laforgue and his Pierrot poems about the moon, taking wild liberties with science, technology and the dark mother of all knowledge: Love. Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” yes, and maybe rewritten by Shostakovich. “Love’s bitter mystery,” as Joyce quotes from Yeats in ULYSSES. Great topic well and concisely explored. Thanks!

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