The Passover Full Moon, Bei Dao and Alan Ginsberg

Tonight is a full moon. There’s also going to be a total lunar eclipse. Tonight is also the first night of Passover, which always starts with a full moon (I think). I tried to look this up on the internet and the answers to how to calculate Passover and Easter dates are very complicated and involved math and java script. Yikes! This is why I am a poet.

There are many poems about the moon. You might even say that the moon is the single most poetic thing around. I want to share some of these lovely poems with you.

  • Here’s a website dedicated to poems that have the phrase “full moon” in them.
  • Bei Dao, perhaps the most internationally famous living Chinese poet, is the nom de plum of Zhao Zhenkai. This poem, “Moon Festival” is mysterious to me, but perhaps my Chinese Cupertino readers will understand it better. I looked for a version in Chinese and could find nothing. That’s probably my fault, not the poem’s. (My favorite part of this poem is the trees applaud.)

Moon Festival
By Bei Dao
Translated by Eliot Weinberger and Iona Man-Cheong

Lovers holding pits in their mouths
make vows and delight in each other
till the underwater infant
periscopes his parents
and is born

an uninvited guest knocks at my
door, determined to go deep
into the interior of things

the trees applaud

wait a minute, the full moon
and this plan are making me nervous
my hand fluttering
over the obscure implications of the letter
let me sit in the dark
a while longer, like
sitting on a friend’s heart

the city a burning deck
on the frozen sea
can it be saved? it must be saved
the faucet drip-drop drip-drop
mourns the reservoir

  • This poem by Alan Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California,” is a fantasy on walking around San Francisco, talking to Walt Whitman. Here’s the first crazy stanza:

What thoughts I have of you tonight Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!

What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

I hope you can see the full moon wherever you are and whatever you are doing tonight.

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