Lichen Glows in the Moonlight

By John Kinsella b. 1963 John Kinsella
Lichen glows in the moonlight
so fierce only cloud blocking
the moon brings relief. Then passed by,
recharged it leaps up off rocks

and suffocates—there is no route
through rocks without having to confront
its beseeching—it lights the way,
not the moon, and outdoes epithets

like phosphorescent, fluorescent, or florescent:
it smirks and smiles and lifts the corner
of its lips in hideous or blissful collusion,
and birds pipe an eternal dawn, never knowing

when to sleep or wake. They might
be tricked into thinking their time’s up,
in the spectrum of lichen, its extra-gravital
persuasion, its crackling movement

remembered as still, indifferent, barely
living under the sun, or on a dark night;
climbing up you’d escape, but like all great
molecular weights it leaves traces

you carry with you into the realms
           of comfort and faith.

Source: Poetry (May 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2010
 John  Kinsella


Australian John Kinsella has written over 20 books of poetry, as well as plays and fiction; he also maintains an active literary career as a teacher and editor. Kinsella’s poetry is both experimental and pastoral, featuring the landscape of Western Australia. Paul Kane observed in World Literature Today, “In Kinsella’s poetry these are lands marked by isolation and mundane violence and by a terrible transcendent beauty.” His The . . .

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POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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