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Sunday, 8 October 2017
Wednesday's Full Moon - the so-called Harvest Moon - shines with a steely incandescence through the night and into the chill, autumnal dawn. At midnight, it hangs above the hill like a huge, inflated golf ball, lathering the skies in a froth of icy white. Outside my window, moonbeams slant like strobes, stroking the cool glass waters of the canal and brushing through the roofs and woodlands like a paintbrush dipped in snow.
My sleep is lit by dreams of moonlight. In drifting, sepia-tinged scenes, I watch a thin moon slowly swing over meadows of frost, sail above an angry, blustered sea, reflect on the surface of the Calder in rippled rags of light, like an ice-coated cobweb. I dream that somebody has unhooked the moon from its cimmerian firmament, hauled it through the window like a kite, and now we are carefully placing that same tired, shrunken moon between soft embroidered cloths, and sliding it into a drawer, tucked safely away. I awake to the soft flood of moonglow weeping through the window.
Shortly before 5, the skies thick-set in deeper darkness, the Valley is silent, still. Amid the bleak pitch-black the moon's silken sphere gleams like a ball of frozen champagne, radiating waxen rays of solid light.
By six, my train is sliding through the frost above Mytholmroyd and Hebden, rows of terraced houses lined up like the spines of bony dinosaurs, factories and football pitches spaced between expanses of leafless trees and farmland, old chimneys and black steeples tinted in the glimmer of the late lunar bloom. As the dark night lifts, stars, like sprinkled dewdrops, twinkle above the streets and fields, and we speed on through the stony borderlands from Yorkshire into Lancashire. The moon's glare dwindling, it hovers like a nervous ice cube, leaking, slowly melting.
Half past six. I step onto the platform, Rochdale laid out below the railings in a dim, grey cloak of autumn mist. I can see the tram stop, its electric boards of amber neon listing destinations. East Didsbury. Oldham Mumps. Rochdale Town Centre. To the west, the silver zigzags of the railway lines twine into the distance like serpentine moonbeams. Ahead, the dome of St John the Baptist Church is white against sooty sky, curved like a half moon, a green cross perched upon its zenith like a flag.
Soon, I am on board my tram, shuttling across the tracks, burrowing into the wooded fringe of Crompton Moor and towards my destination in the hills. The lightening skies blush in a pinkish kiss of sunrise, its faint rays trickling over the hillside like the petals of red roses. Passengers embark; cars begin to dot adjacent roads. In the newly crimson sky, the last vestige of moonshine has been absorbed into the haze of milky cloud, wrapped around the heavens like a woolen scarf faintly smeared in blood.
Moon, Harvest Moon,
licking like a quartzy quill
and frost-robed hills,
your silver tears illuminate
the lonely dark of dawn.