Friday Poem

Ask The Moon


Wakeful past 3 a.m.
near the frontiers of Nothing
it’s easy, so easy
to imagine (like William Blake)
an archaic angel standing askew
in a cone of light
not of this world;

easy at this cheating hour
to believe an angel cometh
to touch babies’ skulls,
their fontanelles,
deleting the long memory
of generations—
the genesis of déjà vu;

easy to conceive angel-light
bright as that sudden
ordinary window
I saw at midnight
across the road
before the drawing of a blind.


Once another presence
also nocturnal, oneiric,
secretive, in disguise,
waiting behind
an opening Seder door.

‘No,’ says the child, ‘Gone.’
Framed in that black oblong

(A shadow flees
when a light is shone.)

Was childhood real?
Did a stallion attempt
to mount a mare
painted by Apelles, as they said?

Did Greek workmen really believe
that the statue to be exiled
would sob when carried to
Lord Elgin’s ship? As they said.

The deceived don’t know they’re deceived.
When prying Apion, with eerie conch,
summoned Homer’s spirit
to ask where he was born
whose bloody head,
for one moment only,
seemed to appear above the parapet?

Ask the moon.
The mystery named
is not the mystery caged.

Even a night-scene
may be an illusion, a fake,
like an afternoon harbour
viewed through sunglasses
the light forged over
a moon-tormented sea.


I was visited once, once only, elsewhere,
near a lake, near an oak,
near a weeping willow tree and thorn,
one summertime, out of time, in England,
during the cosmic love-making hour
when day and night shyly intermingle,

when day entranced does not know
what or when and night, ecstatic,
is not itself entirely
till the late coming of the stars.

But now it’s 4 a.m. already
and like a snow-flake’s touch
shiver-cold and quiet.

Did someone cry out?
I heard someone cry out.
No-one cried out.

I woke up dreaming I
was wide-awake.

by Dannie Abse
publisher: Poetry International, 2014