Kristina Marie Darling’s new book The Sun & The Moon takes up the metaphor of celestial bodies to contemplate the movement of the bodies of two lovers as they move through the space of their lives. To illustrate the astronomical importance of her undertaking, Darling’s Appendix A offers three illustrations of two famous astronomical clocks. These clocks “show the relative location of the sun and the moon,” as well as planets and constellations. Though these other minor heavenly bodies make an appearance, it is the story of the sun and moon’s relationship to each other where Darling focuses her light.
The long poem “The Sun & The Moon” consists of numbered prose poems and presents a teleological narrative that is signaled sometimes as one day, a calendar year, or several years of celestial orbit. Darling signals chronology by adopting the numbering system of the illustrated clocks, presenting twenty-two poems and a narrative that follows the seasonal changes created by sunlight received. Darling’s book is also a teleological narrative of a marriage, from the initial first night of the wedding party to a last night after the husband’s departure. In the poem, the speaker watches her party burn, contemplates what her husband brings to their union, and catalogs her own acquiesces to what she witnesses with a scientific, detached horror. Though she “did what she could to keep the house from burning,” she acknowledges that “sometimes things go wrong at parties.” This narrative suggests that couples lack complete power to direct a relationship’s arc, despite herculean efforts. The Sun & The Moon is the wife’s story. Blame and fault is cast on the husband, who “had an odd way of showing affection” and leads in an army of ghosts who polished knives, watched them, took notes, and eventually drove them apart. The husband is also the one who tends the fires and shakes an “empty wine bottle in the air.” Though the wife blames the husband for his destructive role, she owns her complicity. She loves him, says it’s a marriage of “practicality,” one which only began when “we decided we’d generate our own heat.” She admits, “It’s the strangest things that keep me from leaving.” Though the husband/sun leaves, the wife/moon ends the relationship by starting the fire, an act that surprises even the ghosts. Darling writes, “It’s safe to say they didn’t expect me to light the first match.” Like clocks that trace time, teleological narratives posit a beginning and an end, and both remind us to see time, and here, marriage, as linear. Marriage is built with an anticipated end.
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Luke McMullan is prising the nails out of the lyric and holding it ethically accountable for any passivity that might lurk in its corridors. This is a call to occupy, to resist the feasting and destruction. As 'we all dance the liberty frogmarch', he reprocesses the responsibilities of speculating and creating the spectacle of consumer lives. What stuns in this sequence is the performative quality of the work as it negotiates subtle moments of utterance and gesture. There's New York and 'Memphis', but even the oral inheritance/subtext of The Iliad with its ordnance and war dead. It's about adding up the costs. The angel investors are falling around us and the planet aches with opportunism. Capitalist adaptations come unstuck, thwarted by their own expense accounts. At once jagged and smooth, there's delicacy in this confrontation with personal and collective responsibility that can take one's breath away. One of the most intelligent poets writing anywhere, McMullan also has great technical facility and can keep us poised on the edge of the disaster he carefully articulates, and in which we are all culpable — he does this in the hope that we might see and act. This poet will change things for the better.Read more »
Pointed Sentences by Bill Yarrow