If the moon came out only once a month

by Cathy Ross


If the moon came out only once a month

people would appreciate it more. They’d mark it

in their datebooks, take a walk by moonlight, notice

how their bedroom window framed its silver smile.


And if the moon came out just once a year,

it would be a holiday, with tinsel streamers

tied to lampposts, stores closing early

so no one has to work on lunar eve,

travelers rushing to get home by moon-night,

celebrations with champagne and cheese.

Folks would stay awake ’til dawn

to watch it turn transparent and slowly fade away.


And if the moon came out randomly,

the world would be on wide alert, never knowing

when it might appear, spotters scanning empty skies,

weathermen on TV giving odds—“a 10% chance

 of moon tonight”—and when it suddenly began to rise,

everyone would cry “the moon is out,” crowds

would fill the streets, jostling and pointing,

night events would be canceled,

moon-closure signs posted on the doors.


And if the moon rose but once a century,

ascending luminous and lush on a long-awaited night,

all humans on the planet would gather

in huddled, whispering groups

to stare in awe, dazzled by its brilliance,

enchanted by its spell. Years later,

they would tell their children, “Yes, I saw it once.

Maybe you will live to see it too.”


But the moon is always with us,

an old familiar face, like the mantel clock,

                 so no one pays it much attention.



why not go outside and gaze up in wonder,

as if you’d never seen it before,

as if it were a miracle,

as if you had been waiting

all your life.

Title poem from If the Moon Came Out Only Once a Month, Seattle: Forsythia Press, 2012 (page 9). This poem was first read publicly at the moon viewing poetry reading at the Seattle Japanese Garden on 2 September 2006, organized by Michael Dylan Welch.       +