Saturday, February 04, 2006

"My Three Eclipses" by Martha Hollander

Total, 1970

Direct viewing was forbidden, of course.
I remember how crescents formed in our hands
as we pursed fingers and thumbs together
to make shadows on the side of the house.
The sun, a perfect cashew of light,
emanated from our fingertips
like a gift, or a benevolent beam
to aim wherever we pleased.
Urged indoors to the safer light,
we could view the unimaginable on TV.
Hordes of Wisconsin schoolchildren
were pointing at the noontime black sky.
Our alter egos in infinite shades of gray,
they wore the same coats, same mittens —
as if there were no great interfering
ball of the world, no sprawling nation,
just electric ghosts hovering like angels
at the four corners of our New Haven street.
And how like the blurry screen
was the sky, silver, fabulous, outside!

Partial, 1986

Who can tell anyway on a grey day?
Yet there it was, savaging the mist.
I called you over to see it,
one hand gliding across your shoulders,
the other pointing into the sky,
"Up there — but don't look too long."
Our lowered heads rose and traveled together
like the spheres aligned above us.
The lovely modesty of this event
— no sudden darkness, no curse —
did nothing to ease the astonishment
of seeing an angry little sliver
where the sun should be.
We seemed to be catching the sun
in an intimate moment. White and awful
and incomplete, it offered the raw
knowledge that blinds us
to any foggy distinctions.
You squinted and looked away,
unable to bear unmediated sight,
while I held fast to you and stared until it hurt.

Annular, 1994

Surprise! a glacier's blue
like simultaneous dusk and dawn,
laid a filter over the city.
Crescents were everywhere, shifting
in the shadows of rustling trees
like thousands of tiny moons, smiles,
brows or birds, bubbles or whitecaps
hovering in festive fractals.
Mouths open, briefly beatified,
the lunch crowds laid down their bags to capture
crescents in their fingers once again.
Through the telescope installed in the park,
the crescents, with each universal motion,
were maturing into whole rings of light.
The mighty lens at the center of it all
revealed a golden O singing in blackness,
honoring, in the last eclipse of my life,
the epic marriage of earth and its only moon.


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