1059: Love and the Moon

20240208 SD

1059: Love and the Moon


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

On the six-month anniversary of our first date, I thought to surprise my girlfriend with a bottle of champagne and a charcuterie board. I carefully chose imported cheeses and cured meats: a camembert from Normandy, Tomme de Savoie from the French Alps, coppa, prosciutto, pastrami from Calais, crostini, an array of olives, pates, cornichons, and jams. When she arrived, I greeted her with a Tiffany blue gift bag, a flute of bubbly, and pointed to my creation, a paragon of culinary precision and abundance. I proclaimed, “Look!”

Her eyes widened. A pall of sadness befell her face. She said she wasn’t hungry and walked into another room. All my work and preparation. I was confused. Turns out, I hit upon an emotional land mine. She and her previous husband had made Friday evenings a ritual of shared cooking; no matter the main course, a charcuterie board began the nights’ festivities.

This moment pricked my ears to other behavior that felt peculiar; whenever Van Morrison’s “Moondance” came on the radio, she rushed to turn the dial. Driving to the supermarket, she avoided a street in her neighborhood, though it was the quickest route to her destination. She refused to play Scrabble even though it is my favorite pastime. These were all vestiges from a previous marriage that exposed an array of hurts, reminders of a betrayal that was hard to shake. To me, they were denied ecstasies. But I understood; in a prior relationship, I once asked a partner not to wear a certain perfume; she empathetically obliged.

Sometimes, every which way we turn, the world reminds us that we carry a wounded heart. Love is beautiful until it is not, and then we are handed a chainmail of armor along with our insecurities. When we stumble out of those woods, we bring along burrs and nettles, but also, too, faded reminiscences of favorite activities, gestures, habits, and memories that once bonded us to a person — all the hurt joy.

Today’s poem calls attention to how the past is resurrected, how the lingering presence of people we used to know — can haunt the loveliest of things.

Love and the Moon
by Nan Cohen

When I see something beautiful I think of him,
my friend in love tells me. That’s how I felt—
for years, stepping outside to see the moon
tipped like a boat, or a vertical half
like an open book. Wherever she is,
I’d think, she also sees this moon,
and what I meant was each of our hearts
lifting toward it, the moon like a magnet
pulling our gaze from wherever we stood on the earth.
And if we were separate in time, 
well, the moon doesn’t change. Just the shadow.
In those years I felt it pinned us in time together,
wherever we were. The physicists say 
light doesn’t get old. But now when I see 
something beautiful, I think of someone
no longer here. It’s just that beauty
hurts more now, and I can look 
at almost anything but the moon.

"Love and the Moon" by Nan Cohen. Used by permission of the poet.