Joanna Pearson


Joanna Pearson’s first book of poetry, Oldest Mortal Myth, was chosen by Marilyn Nelson for the 2012 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. She lives in Baltimore, where she works as a resident physician at Johns Hopkins.

The Moon Children

That old kook, our neighbor, told us
of a myth: children gone before their time
frolic on the moon. A girl we knew
had shot herself at sixteen. Moth-browed,
glitter-eyed, and laughing, she’d vanished.
Gazing at the bruises on the moon’s cheek,
we saw and did not see such things, scoffing
at our parents, their tears and ritual.
But maybe, someone said, she’s everything in nature.
Cut the hippie bullshit, another answered. Still,
we thought, if the dead girl loomed above us,
made of wind, a blend of loose particulate,
would we wear her when we stepped out
doors at night, pushing garbage cans up drives,
draped in dark, tattered sky? Being dead
might be a chilled nakedness of starlight—
you, thinned to translucence so your mother
couldn’t know her windowsill held the crook
of your elbow. Or that your knees condensed
as rain, or May azaleas held in their soft flames
your lost eyes.

But there were beers to filch and buttons to unbutton:
a bravery and sadness we called pleasure.
We’d be young forever; she was gone
unto the moon, stuck with shrieking, iridescent
boys and girls. Among the moon children,
she’d surely feel too old. She’d become the leaves
whispering, a traffic of fireflies, the voices
of children on the moon whisking like bats
overhead—Please, not that stuff again, someone said.
We gazed up at the plain old moon, its light
reflected, waxing, then waning to
a shut lid.