An Almanac for the Phases of the Moon by Jeffrey Salamone-Callahan

Atena reaches her hand down into the water and pulls up her heart, a pulse-less fossil. The sky and the sea assimilate into one surface, one shadow, and Atena rubs her fingers over the objects’ cratered surface the way a blind woman reads braille. In her palm it is a comet, a whale’s tooth, a stone ruin whose time spent in absence from the body, from behind Atena’s pallid flesh, is marked by the multiplicity of its scars. She cannot see, but she closes her eyes anyway. Disgusted, she throws it back, whispering sea-salted curses that dissolve in the dark as it descends the abyss.

There is a place somewhere in south Dartmouth where a bend in the road meets the open temperament of the sea, where Buzzards Bay makes a brief inclination into the rolling fields of the peninsula and where a soft slither of beach meets bridge meets bird of prey.

Atena imagines herself standing on this road, on this bridge, but what she does not imagine is that she is underwater, and having reached up out of the sea and into the sky, she has brought back the moon.

Now it is hurtling back into the ether and from a distance — a boat or the farther edges of the shore — it might appear to the person standing there as if a pearl had risen from its nautical womb and exploded desperately into the sky, and from this enchanted eyewitness we can expect the invention of a new mythology of the stars.

It slows in space until it is nearly motionless, suspended. What Atena also doesn’t imagine is that in her throw she was reserved, the slightest resistance, a muscle spasm laced with vestigial reluctance, a physical caution. And so now the moon remains caught in orbit, rotating around the planet in a tortured dance, so close it pulls at her like an old nightmare, beyond the grasp of her soggy human hands. The ellipse of the moon — no heart can forgive a new chain. It tugs away and Atena can feel the ripping of her skin, feel it dragging away from her under the rip current. The pain is intense and drives her mad and in her madness the whole sea writhes. The entire ocean convulses in her agony, the ocean, washed in the spiteful glowing spit, the merciless reflections of her lunar organ, salivates with foam. Storms sweep men off their feet and under the raging flatline of the waves.

Waning Gibbous
Is looking up at the sky
like looking through a glass pane
trapped from the inside?
Is her heart glowing?
Is it warm? A candle.
Or is it cold? Is the light
Merely a reflection?
Is new love merely light off an old mirror?

Half Moon (3rd Quarter)
Darkness moves across the plane
Of the moons surface
Like the shadow of the Osprey’s wings over the water
As it plunges for its prey.
Like a trapeze between light and shadow.
Atena’s heart half-wrapped in netting
Heavy with rot and unstrung with decay.
Like the port that once survived here not off the land
But off the water
She is rusting all over.

Waning Crescent
Atena cries
Is rain
Clear now
Diminishing light
Eyes two craters
Ancient and empty.

New Moon
This the hour of her greatest
Relief of a temporary deceit
Of solitude of breathing in
Counted rhythms
In having forsaken begging
In heaven forsaken begging
In having held two hands to her chest
And not wished to fill it.
In having a garden-of-Paradise
Not well watered
But with buckets filled from the rising tide.

Waxing Crescent
The ocean is not filled by tears
But it is filled
With everything
For which we thirst.

Half Moon (First Quarter)
She could drown for a half
Like that.
She could see her whole
Like that
Split down the middle
Half-hidden, half-illuminated,
Half-laminated, half-loved,
Half-faced, half-haved,
Half-begun, half-ended.
One day she swore she saw someone
Walk across it leaving flimsy footprints
The way she does in the beach sand.
They walked to the edge of the curving shoreline
And dipped their feet into the darkness
How could it float up there?
She thought something so heavy
Could only sink.
She’s been thinking she’s hearing things lately
The wind
beating wings over her head
The shadows of the trees
Suddenly the shadows of talons.
She waits for death in the maritime.

Waxing Gibbous
Men sail on the horizon
The sails look like folded letters
But they never arrive.
Children skip stones, mistake
Her for a mermaid,
The kids from the city come down and swim and have sex
Under the throbbing light of her heartbeat.
She can’t stand the billions
That live under her
Light not like blood or fire but bitter and what they call
Cool and what she calls
The fishermen’s Medusa.

Full Moon
Does the pale moon blush?
Does she starve for the eclipse?
Does the fullness of the moon compare
With the fullness of the labyrinthine sea?




Jeffrey Salamone-Callahan is a nearly-completed undergraduate student from Boston who writes on the fly. He works on a farm in Worcester, Massachusetts.