American Life in Poetry: Column 165


In "The Moose," a poem much too long to print here, the late Elizabeth
Bishop was able to show a community being created from a group of
strangers on a bus who come in contact with a moose on the highway.
They watch it together and become one. Here Robert Bly of Minnesota
assembles a similar community, around an eclipse. Notice how the experience
happens to "we," the group, not just to "me," the poet.

Seeing the Eclipse in Maine

It started about noon. On top of Mount Batte,
We were all exclaiming. Someone had a cardboard
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.

It was hard to believe. The high school teacher
We'd met called it a pinhole camera,
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.
And when the moon had passed partly through

We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,
Dozens of crescents—made the same way—
Thousands! Even our straw hats produced
A few as we moved them over the bare granite.

We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine
Told a joke. Suns were everywhere—at our feet.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also
supported by the Department of English at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln. Copyright © 1997 by Robert Bly, whose most recent
book of poetry is "My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy," Harper
Perennial, 2006. Poem reprinted from "Music, Pictures, and Stories,"
Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2002, by permission of the writer. Introduction
copyright © 2006 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author,
Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry
to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited