>Moonlore From the East
What if the man’s face in the moon wasn’t a man
At all but a woman? A friend asked me.
I said it was always a woman to me, the moon
For she charted our lives from inside and outside
That’s how we looked at the moon from towns
By swollen rivers
And eastern monsoon winds.
My first pets were rabbits etched on the moon
Seen from my bedroom window
When storytelling was a rite and people sifted truth from lies.
I wasn’t yet called a moon-faced siren then
Until it became a new moon.
If you’re a hunter, fisherman,
You know what the moon does to you, your
Forests, noisy crickets and dreamy skies
She’s a jealous rival or a benevolent ladylove.
Earlier the fishermen of my coasts cast lines
Measuring phases of the moon;
If they found her moody and sad
Like their wives or doting like a mother
They stopped wars in honor of the woman-moon
Even when she marched on through her waning
They’ve forgotten that pride.
(First published in The Toronto Quarterly, Jan 09. Order copies on lulu.com. Photograph from my porch — 2008 full lunar eclipse in progress.)
NOTES: The Moon, as is the Sun, often in Indian lore, is male. “Chandamama” is literally “moon uncle”, whereas in some other parts of the subcontinent, the moon is a woman, elderly and loving. A female’s progression from girlhood to womanhood is quite commonly compared to the moon’s growing phases. As in other parts of the world, the moon in this region is also a source of myth for emotions, upheavals, changes.