Eleanor Stanford

Invention of the Moon

By the Sea of Crisis, I lay out my thin towel. Behind me,
the bright roiling city, the stands selling beer and coconuts.
Women in white dresses kneel to wash the church steps.
Carnaval music pulses from the speakers. The beat is blunt
as the dull knife a drunk
                                 plunges into another’s ribcage.
But the ocean’s grace notes–mordent, descending
appogiatura–pull me under.
Sea of Nectar. Sea of the Edge. This is how the days
repeat themselves, rolling over. Life, as someone said
of the Bach Inventions, is “clearly impossible to execute
            at any reasonable tempo.”
This is the year I don’t sleep, but instead follow the moon’s light-
suffused motif–augmentation, diminution.
                                                                                The Mare Desiderii,
the Sea of Dreams, was long ago declared a fallacy.

I pick up the easy badinage, the greetings
and the curses. But for my youngest

son, it’s all he has. He points at the waxing gibbous

and says,





The storms that hit South Florida
are brief. Sudden flash
of clarity in the unstable
air. The only perfect memory,
the neuroscientists say, is the one
not accessed. Thus her life
perfects itself in the tousled

cumulonimbus bringing
cool air and rain

to Earth. Every afternoon

she looks out the window

and sighs, It’s been so long

since it last rained.



Entire walls are made of glass.

The table is glass. The clocks

are glass. Finally we have succeeded

in making time



The tongue sandwich

on rye hovers

in midair.



Who does he look like?

my grandmother asks, pinching

my son’s cheek.

Who does he look like?



Every year a billion birds die

flying into windows.

Think about their skills at flying

through tree branches and leaves.

Think how easy it is

to mistake one thing

for another.





Agua de Beber   

Eu quis amar mais tive medo–


When my little ones were sick with fever,

and would drink only the sweet, cloudy

water from coconuts, Dete stood in the kitchen

with a machete and hacked them

open. Santa Clara, patron saint

of the local aquifer, where now

Monsanto washes runoff

over the permeable

rock–is this how it feels?

When the baby wouldn’t take

even the milk I’d spun

from sunlight and black coffee, filtered

through my own good blood?

To calm myself, I palmed the cracked

green globe. When Dete was young

in the countryside, she said,

there were no doctors. Children died

from such simple things.

Meu interior, she called it, or equally,

a fora: the exterior. She scooped the quivering,

translucent flesh from the hard shell.






EStanford-2Eleanor Stanford is the author of The Book of Sleep (2008) and Bartram’s Garden (2015), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press, and a memoir, História, História: Two Years in the Cape Verde Islands (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, 2013). She lives in the Philadelphia area.