The History of Moonlight

The moon in the sky was bright and round and lonely. He slept all day and he wandered all night and one evening he woke and wanted a playmate. So he plucked from the sky a galaxy shaped like a needle, and he breathed out moonlight and wove it into thread, and he gathered the constellations and gently pulled off some of their parts and he sewed the stars back together to make a little girl.

So that she could always fly to him no matter where he roamed, he made her all of wings: the wings of the fly were her eyebrows, and the Pegasus’s wings were her arms, and the swan’s wings were her legs. He plaited the dove’s feathers to make her hair, and he took the eagle’s feathers for her fingers, and he wrapped the dragon’s wings around her for her skin. She had no mouth to sing with, so the moon undid the raven’s wings and used the sinews to string a lute that the little girl could strum with her feathered fingers. And since she had no eyes to see with, he plucked them from the peacock and he spread them across her body so that she could always look upon him and find him in the sky. Finally he took the wings from the phoenix and sewed them together to make her ears. (They would catch fire when he whispered to her, and burn away, and then grow back again.)

When she was finished, he played with the little girl who was made all of wings. During the day she waited while he slept, and when night came she wandered with him.

But because he had taken their wings to make his playmate, the constellations could no longer stay aloft, and one by one they fell from the sky: the fly, and the horse, and the swan, and the dove, and the eagle, and the dragon, and the raven, and the peacock, and the phoenix. They shone on the ground, sparkling and wingless, and they walked and they walked and they tried to find their way back to the heavens.

The little girl saw this, and she wept at the moon with each of her peacock eyes, and brushed his face with her feather fingers – he had not made her a mouth, so she could not kiss him goodbye – and she plucked the needle from the sky and floated with it to the ground.

First she unstitched her eyebrows and gave them back to the fly, and listened with her fiery ears as it buzzed up from the earth. Next she sat down and unstitched her legs, and gave them back to the swan, and she felt the heat from the stars in its long white neck as it, too, left the ground. Then she unplaited her hair for the dove, and she gave her skin back to the dragon. She unmade her lute so that the raven could take its wings, and she listened as it cawed its farewell before giving her ears back to the phoenix, and with her whole body she watched the phoenix go before giving her eyes back to the peacock. When there was almost none of her left, she undid the stitching of her arms and her fingers and the horse and the eagle came to collect their wings – and the eagle took the needle in its beak – and they flew away and then there was none of her left.

The moon still wanders, looking for her. He whispers his loneliness to the phoenix, and he dances it for the peacock. And when he cries the dove beats its wings to dry his tears with starry wind. And when he sighs the raven beats its wings to fan his breath into music. And still he is lonely, and he wanders, and he hopes, and he waits.


*This story is part of the “Light Poems” series, inspired by an ongoing collaboration with artist Amy-Claire Huestis.