Between nine and ten the second night without lights, the clouds began breaking up. First there were modern-art stripes of deep blue in the haze overhead; then, after I had gone back inside and accordioned up in my reading chair with a booklight and a cat, a gradual radiance suffused the room, the kind of thing a schlocky film director would use to indicate that a ghost or angel or nature spirit was about to speak. I looked up and there She was above the trees, just framed in the hearth-wall window, enormous and queenly, as you never see her when the air is filled with the clutter of light we spew nightly as carelessly as we discard beer cans and candy wrappers. The cloud cover was thin but not gone, so that She was surrounded by an irregular rainbow blur of paler light. I addressed Her in several languages, according to the poems and scraps of libretti that live in the cluttered desk drawers of my mind; taking my cue from Robert Graves, I usually drop one knee to Her when She is new, and the phrase Ihre Schonheit always comes to my lips. I spent a lot of time singing sentimental nature songs in four part harmony with ex-pat Germans, when I was young and foolish.
I had gotten pretty depressed by then, what with the irregular performance of my emergency radio and the things I heard on the news when it was working smoothly; I can’t remember when I’ve missed light so much, even more than heat, which was a nuisance but a surmountable one. (I’ve got a gas stove and water heater, so I could take showers and drink steady tots of Roastaroma spiked with Drambuie.) But I would have been poorer if I hadn’t seen Her like that.
I don’t suppose they are thinking in those terms in Atlantic City or Far Rockaway, where the full moon kicked the water that much further up the beaches and into the sounds. It seems cruel to talk about beauty when houses have been washed out to sea and old people are stuck in high rises without water and no one can even get a grip on the extent of the damage. I once said “hasten the day” when I read Edgar Cayce’s predictions that the lower half of Manhattan would break off and fall into the sea, but I was young then and could only think how I hated every minute I had to spend changing trains in New York. I didn’t mean it, guys. Honest.
I’ve been picking up my cell phone, for which, merely to keep the account alive, I have to buy more minutes than I’ll ever use, and texting REDCROSS to 90999 and STORM to 80888 (which is the Salvation Army), which turns the backlog of prepaid time into ten-buck donations. Just about the only thing I can do.
Every once in a while I catch myself humming this, which is something that has happened for years after seeing a particularly majestic and bridal full moon, until I finally went looking up clips and remembered that it is sung by a woman with a sickle in her hand.