Poetry: “Moonwalk” by Ted Hughes

A glare chunk of moon.
The hill no colour
Under the polarized light.
Like a day pushed inside out. Everything
In negative. Your mask
Bleak as cut iron, a shell-half–
Shucked off the moon. Alarming
And angering moon-devil-here somewhere.
The Ancient Mariner’s Death-in-Life woman
Straight off the sea’s fevered incandescence
Throwing black-and-white dice.
A sea saracen and cruel-looking.
And your words
Like bits of beetles and spiders
Retched out by owls. Fluorescent,
Blue-black, splintered. Bat-skulls. One day, I thought,
I shall understand this tomb-Egyptian,
This talking in tongues to a moon-mushroom.
Never wake a sleepwalker. Let the blame
Hit the olive-trees.
The black blood of their shadows
Might cry out like Abel’s.
Who’s here? That’s the question: Who’s here?
The doctor who humours, and watches
As the patient dies in his care.
Something else shares the skin of the day.
The mimicry of possession, the set of the mouth,
Would be awful in a dream. Awake
It’s a question of patience. Like a phantom
Womb-tumour. The full moon of radium
Had stripped herself for the operation–
Stripped herself of everything
But moon. What is moon? The raw lump
Of ore, not yet smelted and shaped
Into your managed talent. Or it flings
Onto the X-ray plate the shape of the ape
Being led by the virgin, both helpless
In her hell. The moon
Takes things like that seriously–
As it stares at the kitchen implements.

I was the gnat in the ear of the wounded
Elephant of my own
Incomprehension. Curator
Of the tar-pit. Around us
On the moon-brown hills, the stars rested
Their possible anaesthesia,
All the mythologies, all inaccessible.
The sardine-boats-off with Cassiopeia.
Every stone a rosetta
Of moon-marks. I could no more join you
Than on the sacrificial slab
That you were looking for. I could not
Even imagine the priest. I walked beside you
As if seeing you for the first time–
The moon-shadow of a strange dog,
The silent shadow of a dog
That had befriended you. Your eyes
Were in their element
But uncomprehending and
Terrified by it. Like the surfaced Kraken
You took in the round
Of moon and starred sea, littered heaven and
Moon-blanched, moon-trenched sea-town
And its hook of promontory halving
The two wings of beach. A great bird
Fallen beside the Mediterranean.
A sea of lapis lazuli painted
Glitteringly afresh, just for you,
By de Chirico.
You carried it all, like shards and moults on a tray,
To be reassembled
In the poem to be written so prettily,
And to be worn like a fiesta mask
By the daemon that gazed through it
As through empty sockets–that still gazes
Through it at me.

— Ted Hughes