myth and poetry

Mythopoetics/ Air ings

For The Love of a Womanwinter
by stephanie pope

Part 2: February Moon

Missing The Moon

February Moon
My friends across America are telling me they are getting their share of snowfall this year. And that is about right for you see the heaviest snows usually lay upon the ground come February. This is why February’s full moon is dubbed Snow Moon. That is not its only name and psyche is at root nature so it will be important to consider the full snow moon by its many names.

The Farmer’s Almanac provides me a short history of naming February’s full moon ‘budding in absence’ if I am to consider a felt-sense that combines somehow all the characteristics of snow, ice, bud, bone, bony hunger and no little famine. Something is missing; furthermore, it is miss-ing in the very account regarding what is fully absent at the point in February when the moon is fullest! Hence the magical miss-ing carries a full fury of life force in reflection absent bodying life. And, life is hungry for it! That is to say, what is miss-ing is a principle of order dropping out; it is the one which gives shape and form and life to the way things are. 

I can imagine life in the body, then, is a mirror image reflecting in the body what the moon sees happening on earth throughout all psyche. The life of the body is reflecting in its hunger the absence of bodying life. Food is scarce. Life's eternal flame burns near destruction. What is definitely present is the moderate, clear light of the moon contradistinct the strong light of the sun; the sun, the source of power, warmth and life, has vanished into the mind of winter.

On the one hand power comes from the sun. It is the power of life and unrestrained life. Think of the growing season. Think it too, a groaning season where Gaia cannot find room for rest and where Cronos, lain fast upon her with relentless appetite, swallows children. In a loss of life is the possibility lost too for a life of fulfillment in the appetites of the senses. The myth seems to say how once the unrestrained life of the senses led to arrogance, competition, greed, violence, madness, tyranny and death. And so by another hand the moon of February has come to grant healing and restoration in swallowing the sun. It is as if poetic mind remembers life has “a mind for winter” and is hungry for life at the same time.

Cherokee say the full moon in February is kagali, bony; Death and Life can almost not be told apart and must be. A poet friend reminded me what life in the bone is like surviving a dearth of god and needing fed. God is born already chained to a tree, trapped as a wounded animal is trapped in flesh strapped to his bone. And there you are. As if life didn’t matter and neither does the god anymore. Life cries out for support. My god, my god, why am I forsaken?  Where is my support, my wealth, my food, my health, long life, inspiration? Where is immortality? The bony moon sits thin and full very near the feast and very far and low upon the brow she “climbs through night’s highest noon” much the way William Blake suggests is an infinite ruin where even hope is to be given up.

They say the animal lives on its own fat and when it hunts and finds the bone it will have sucked the marrow to live and will have tasted again its own life. And when such a movement is felt, the way the animal is soothed, soothes the old moon, too. The poet Blake may know something of the song in the bone the spirit of the night wind blows into the ear of the old moon

I haste away
To close the Labours of my Day.
The Door of Death I open found,
And the Worm Weaving in the Ground

                   -The Poetry of Blake from Lytton Strachey's Books & Characters

Death but also life in the divine dearth is in the cry and one can almost hear a prayer in the cry to the moon. This then is inherent in the deepest human longing. Half-way between the temporal life and the ancient, trans-temporal cycle lives an understanding: to have what is not cannot be had in final form. Life is nothing firm and final nor is it less to be believed in the very moment of one's own great not having where one at last sees what is not final comes round.

It is imagined the moon ferments beyond the song of the world, a mead which transforms it. And to the luster, go the mad and the sane alike for the light of the moon transforms Blake's moondeath into life, the lunar symbol suggests. So that moon, having fed the stars a pablum song, causes singing to pass through their lovely mouths and fall upon the tongue of Gaia’s children in soothe. Which is to say when the song in the depths of matter reaches the ears of heaven a great remembering occurs in the memory of nature herself and all psyche sings at once, “LIFE!” for psyche is in root nature and remembering is mother to muse.

" I want, I want”, 1793 Wm Blake
Engravings of “the Gates of Paradise” No 9
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

“On the shadows of the moon climbing through nights high noon”

additional reading: for another version of the story in the bone see

When Old Man Whistles

February Moon©
by-- stephanie pope

once in lying
there upon the floor
a winter frozen beyond tears
eyes not dead, found February
the same as April

once an icy storm tore night
limb to limb -tried to bury it
rent it asunder & christmas trees
lent the morning sun an unbreeze
things hung, life shook, nothing fell
to eyes pretending just then—pre
tending, but they didn’t know this at the time
and so they were pretending themselves dead
and frozen; somehow eyes were this icy, too©

not without stillness does thy soul yet make
lying now & always because eyes lied then
although not many i’s can hear the heartbeats
the dead soil on low floors eons long
in thumps thumping like titans of ancestral strum 
a dark heart from below this ghost breathes in
the earth-shaker’s snore, his work
seen now in sunlit morning, done 

years die again during the night like my friend
who died earlier this year –in waves
& trembling & she who was god then
pays dearly in brideprice to god now;
her life, what’s left of it, shared once with me
in that moment leaves me remembering even now
& god, still feigning death, a breath to life
darkens without reason; life in a death year
fills me to the last with the first…
“i” is not even the absence in this odd
dissimilar of phrase but is calling down
the ice bird in what immortals
whisper still to me neither of her nor of
here; not of the risen up
nor of the half-dead, neither her nor here
a god-spirit hanging in the very air of vanishing

no one is blessed beyond fire where eyes are stung
left undone where no one hangs now
& being is empty & becomes no one again
to fill thy ear not here in everything listening too
who with me like winter waits
knowing where nothing hung, life shook
and not knowing, knows that if i am
possessed or inspired or wounded beyond tears
it is here in emptiness she dies
knowing what she knew then
that she has become the wound
without the woundedness in her
& what inheres in starkness & sigh
through grave and perfect symbol
dies; for she is still pretending
(even now) clothed in winter

& she thinks of April & someone vanishing
wrapped blue & crystalline in linen
with eyes not dead & a hole left
in the sky & right there
where her memory is stung
someone has hung the moon

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