Poems by Honor Moore

Cut Outs

Portrait of Manet's Wife

To Janet, On Galileo

 



To Janet, On Galileo

Bertolt Brecht's Galileo Havermeyer Hall at Columbia, 1978
In the play about the first telescope, a man notes
ppp through Galileo's strange tube a moon's edge
not precise or sharp, but irregular, serrated.

ppp We face each other, two women friends, a small
table. Mouth ached to a smile, you begin: the balance-
ppp job, marriage, writing-it's stopped working. Passion

of discovery: Brecht argues such a passion is true
ppp reason. You contemplate leaving a man. I
have left a man. A Hungarian restaurant. Sun

ppp not earth is center. Galileo argues
Copernicus. Priests argue heaven, Ptolemy,
ppp crystal spheres that never move, refuse to look

through the telescope. A man weeping. I cannot touch
ppp him. To comfort would keep me here. You speak of
leaving, feel abandoned. Fork lifted: Perhaps I am

ppp insatiable. Perhaps no one can love me
enough. Chicken paprikash, red cabbage, red wine. Gold
ppp light of April evening. Young women, young arms

Wreathing young men, whisper near university walls.
ppp Janet, women like us are caught in history,
a diaspora. A Leonard Woolf taking care is

ppp not enough. We are not willing to forfeit
passion of love to have passion of work: We want both.
ppp A man's blunt body on blue sheets. Sweetness of

years. I leave, go on more alone. Yesterday we talked
ppp until night. Maybe it's time to part, is what
we came to. Janet, when I knew I had to leave the

ppp house where we'd lived seven years, I cried every
morning. If there were a child, perhaps I could not have
ppp left. Unrestricted inquiry, they warn him,

is dangerous for mankind. Galileo, obsessed,
ppp keeps eye to glass, night, Jupiter's four moons, hears
no warning. If I leave, will anyone else ever

ppp love me? Janet, I was in bed with my new
love kissing when I saw us: sweet Sunday, him, me
ppp seven years younger walking near the blue

river way downtown. Late lunch in a bar, blue sky fall
ppp vivid. I couldn't stop crying until I
reached the telephone, called. I don't know if I cried for

the loss of him, for the loss of a me who
could live with him, or for the loss of what I didn't
ppp know we'd lost until that night I walked through snow

with someone else. Ice air acme in me like freezing breath,
ppp stars bristled a black sky, my mind knew I must
get our. A student in the presence of his mentor:

ppp Galileo, old, blind, silenced. The young man
asks, "have you truly recanted?" "Yes, I have seen their
ppp instruments of torture, and my body fears

pain." Janet, I keep seeing a woman forty-one
ppp stop painting: sanatoriums, shock, drugs; her
daughter, after nine children, begins to write: cancer,

ppp dead at fifty. I am her daughter. Yes, my
body fears. Galileo at the telescope: Three
ppp moons near Jupiter! I've proved Copernicus -

heaven moves! Writes his last at night, prisoner, candle-
ppp lit, racing blindness. The young man smuggles it
free. Janet, we must risk our fear, this history. I say

we must be insatiable.. We walk, theatre
into cool night, moon silver in a black sky. Edge not
ppp serrated, but smooth. Perfect as a clear choice.


From MEMOIR (Chicory Blue Press, 1998)