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Eclipse

Anne Jennings Paris

i. Before

 

It’s bloody, this moon, right before the eclipse,

colored by the wildfires on a far off mountain,

drifting south, trapped in our valley.

 

Through the city’s dark labyrinth, I am running,

the taste of sweat still on my tongue–

which man was it tonight? Which hand

in places I’m not ready for?

 

I hardly know my own skin, the way it drafts

in the low light of bars,

the backseats of cars—

 

I have tried to be empty.

I have tried to be full.

I have tried to fit within

the margins of my rage.

 

I have drowned

just past the water’s edge.

 

ii. During

 

As we approached totality, the light dimmed–

the dog fell silent and lay down in the garden.

The goats, confused, stuck their heads through the fence.

All of us looked skyward–forgetting

the ways we were separate.

 

For those few seconds we came together–

was I the sun or the moon?

I wanted to let your light enter me.

Now that I’ve lost you, it seems everyone

is finding what they seek.

 

I think I could slip off the world,

unnoticed, become a single pinprick

shining through the sky’s canopy.

 

iii. After

 

Late summer, the rose darkens,

the sunflower droops.

Spiders cast their webs in corners,

and the light’s about to change.

The rains are coming, and I’m not ready.

 

So many ways to be eclipsed–

the way the darkness covers me in winter–

the way the clouds cast shadows on the still lake–

the way I tried to fill up the space you left

with the smell and taste of the next man,

the next tongue on my neck.

 

I tried to feed myself on love,

and now something’s awake–

swelling my breast, half-formed

from sadness and desire.

She won’t wait to be made whole.

Let her come.

Let her bloody face destroy the light.

 

Originally from Gainesville, Florida, I’ve been an Oregon resident since 2004. My undergraduate degree is from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where I studied English Literature and Creative Writing with Tony Connor and Annie Dillard. I received my MFA in Creative Writing at San Jose State University, where I studied with Carolyn Kizer and Al Young. While at San Jose State, I received two Academy of American Poets prizes; my work was published in Zyzzyva, as well as several small journals including the Cimarron Review and the Pomona Valley Review. In 2009, my book-length poetry collection, Killing George Washington, was published by Ooligan Press. Since 2009, I have taught writing and studio art to K-12 students, and currently, I teach professional writing at Portland Community College. I live in West Linn, OR with my son who is 13 and a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons.

"Most of the poetry I'm writing these days looks at ways that natural phenomena inform or resonate with my growth as a human being. The poem "Eclipse" is an extremely personal look at how it felt to be dating again after the breakup of my marriage of 17 years. The "you" of the poem should not necessarily be read as my ex, but rather as a progression of people who were important players in my life during that intense period of time just before, during, and after the full solar eclipse of 2017. The "I"of the poem can be read as a confessional "I," not an imagined speaker. The eclipse itself felt like it marked a cataclysmic shift in awareness--there was an "everything that came before" and an "everything that came after," hence the three part structure."