A streamlet of breath trickles
into shuddering pink caves.
Adjust the settings: percent oxygen,
breaths per minute, tidal volume.
Perhaps tidal volume charts
the moon’s pull in anxious blood,
a pull felt in bleached rooms
through the shimmer-buzz of fluorescent light,
as April’s pink moon rises
above sagging shoulders of skyline.
Even as it edges away
from reaching hands
of weeping trees, we feel the pull,
go out alone with our phones,
hold them up, flash one million
square stars at the indifferent sky.
One click, we swallow the moon
and share it, pouring her
white blaze of electrons
from phone to phone. Since
we cannot touch, we say: look
here is the moon. May
breath tides ebb and flow
against the oars of the heart,
as it rows steady in the dark river.
May your chest rise with the moon.
May you know the moon went spinning
across the bright globes of all our eyes
to rest on your own small screen
and it waits for you
to breathe it in.
Image: “pink moon” by Robert Couse-Baker, licensed under CC 2.0.
The inspiration for “Ventilator Moon” was the full moon of April 7, 2020. The full moon that occurs in April is called the “pink moon” by the Maine Farmer’s Almanac because it coincides with the spring blooming of a flower called moss pink (Phlox sublata) in that part of the world. This pink moon was also a “super moon,” meaning the moon was at its closest point to Earth in its 28 day orbit and so appeared larger than usual. I saw the moon rise as I walked in the evening. It blazed huge over the horizon and slightly rosy in color, a thing of fantastic beauty in the midst of the fear and isolation of the coronavirus pandemic. Later, when I checked my social media feeds, I saw images of this moon appear over and over, interspersed with people communicating their grief about the death of the amazing singer-songwriter John Prine, who succumbed to COVID-19 on the night of the pink super moon. It occurred to me that sharing images of the moon was a way for people to connect and support each other while maintaining social distancing. I also know ventilators well – my son was supported by a ventilator through the first 9 months of his life due to his lungs being underdeveloped after his premature birth. These experiences came together in this poem, which I offer as a blessing and healing prayer for all those people who are severely ill with COVID-19. At the same time, the poem explores the strange ways in which technology and nature intersect in today’s world.