Not The Moon By Margaret Atwood

What idiocy could transform the moon, that old sea-overgrown
skull seen from above, to a goddess of mercy?

You fish for the silver light, there on the quiet lake, so clear
to see; you plunge your hands into the water and come up empty.

Don’t ask questions of stones. They will rightly ignore you,
they have shoulders but no mouths, their conversation is elsewhere.

Expect nothing else from the perfect white birdbones, picked clean
in the sedge in the cup of muskeg: you are none of their business.

Fresh milk in a glass on a plastic tray, a choice of breakfast
foods; we sit at the table, discussing the theories of tragedy.

The plump pink-faced men in the metal chairs at the edge of the golf course
adding things up, sunning themselves, adding things up.

The corpse, washed and dressed, beloved meat pumped full of chemicals
and burned, if turned back into money could feed two hundred.

Voluptuousness of the newspaper; scratching your back on the bad news;
furious anger in spring sunshine, a plate of fruit on the table.

Ask of the apple, crisp heart, ask the pear or suave banana
which necks got sucked, whose flesh got stewed, so we could love them.

The slug, a muscular jelly, slippery and luminous, dirty
eggwhite unrolling its ribbon of mucous — this too is delicious.

The oily slick, rainbow-colored, spread on the sewage
flats in the back field is beautiful also

as is the man’s hand cut off at the wrist and nailed to a treetrunk,
mute and imploring, as if asking for alms, or held up in warning.

Who knows what it tells you? It does not say, beg, Have mercy,
it is too late for that. Perhaps only, I too was here once, where you are.

The star-like flower by the path, by the ferns, in the rain-
forest, whose name I did not know, and the war in the jungle —

the war in the jungle, blood on the crushed ferns, whose name I do not
know, and the star-like flower grow out of the same earth

whose name I do not know. Whose name for itself I do not know.
Or much else, except that the moon is no goddess of mercy

but shines on us each damp warm night of her full rising
as if she were, and that is why we keep asking

the wrong questions, he said, of the wrong things. The questions of things.
Ask the spider
what is the name of God, she will tell you: God is a spider.

Let the other moons pray to the moon. O Goddess of Mercy,
you who are not the moon, or anything we can see clearly,

we need to know each other’s names and what we are asking.
Do not be any thing. Be the light we see by.

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