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When I wake up, I can remember touching the back of your neck, the cut of your hair blunt under my fingers.

In the dream you have met my mother. My sisters and I are living in a grand house where I have no room of my own.

One of my sisters has delineated her property by stringing a rope from which she will hang photographs of our dead father.

At the beginning of Christianity, a bishop established what is called the "canon of truth" in order to unify feuding believers into a single way of apprehending the sacred. His teachings excluded the workings of imagination as subjective, vulnerable to self-interest, and possibly insane.

Your neck, the blunt cut of your hair sharp and fragrant on my fingers.

You come to the big house, you have just met my mother at a party where curtains of royal blue fell to the floor. The music by Scarlatti.

My hair is turning gray.

I look in the mirror. The familiar dark hairs are fine and smooth, the white are rough and thick like the fiber of which clouds are woven. I want to pluck out the white hairs, but my tweezer falls through them like logic through the sense of dreams.

I am getting old, soon it will be too late. Your hand will slide from my skin like silk falling from a polished table.

In the big house you come to me, and I show you my rectangle of
floor. It is here I will put my couch and desk, separated from my sister and her pictures of our dead father by the edges of my body, myself, my thinking.

You consider me. We stand there for a while.

My sister is attaching the large photographs of our father to a rope.

I look into the mirror at my white hair. I have sworn I will never dye it, but now I must. The white hairs are growing as fast as snow falls across a landscape. Soon snow will obliterate the town and countryside, there will be no houses visible, cars will disappear under the mass of it, trees will become poignant marks on a dangerous blank.

My sister strings photographs of our dead father along the rope, attaching them with small invisible clips.

I wait for you.

I think about your face, how you are becoming bald, and then I
remember touching you for the first time, the back of your neck. I was wondering how to find you, what I would discover there. It made me almost cry that you stayed perfectly still, certain, it seemed, that what I was imparting was of utmost consequence. I moved my fingers tentatively, as if finding first knowledge in a terrain I could slip beneath, into a garden.

I remembered that when I woke up. That and your sticky skin.

Certain early Christian ideologues denigrated imagination as outside the realms of good and evil. My mother is no longer dead, and you have met her. The air is transparent, the colors dark wood and pale amber.

I am standing at the mirror watching white hair grow in as fast as snow.

What time is the train coming?

You sit at the window, your legs crossed. Courtly and at ease, you scrutinize my face until I am self-conscious.

I become aware that you are waiting for me. I don't know how to get to you.

Some early Christians, those who came to be persecuted as heretics, believed that a part of God is perpetually hidden from us. In relation to that realm of the deity dwells imagination, unceasingly seeking understanding of what is concealed.

I can see you on the window seat in an elegantly cut suit, as if wearing such clothes were a form of grace.

I remember you in that suit, standing in the hotel, turning on your heel to look for me. Now the window is tall behind you, twilight gathering outside the glass, cedars black beyond the roses.

I am not dead, yet I am mute as the dead usually are in dreams. You are speaking in a clear voice, explaining you have met my mother and that I look like her.

Before sleep, I was reading about early Christianity. When I woke up from the long dream, there we were in the taxicab, my arms tentative around you, my fingers seeking the back of your neck.

I felt clearly the blunt edge of your newly cut hair, the stickiness of
your skin, that mortal stickiness–

When my mother's mother was sixty, her hair was still dark. When my mother died at fifty, her hair was still black, though as she sickened, it turned white, black receding as life did.

I stand at the mirror, its rare wide-beveled glass framed by oak carved to leaves and flowers. I am scrutinizing myself. My face is not ageing, but my hair is turning white, cloaking the trees, falling on the meadow, windblown across the frozen lake. What heresy is it that you come to me in a dream, knowing everything?

The tall windows rise to the ceiling, but I don't lift my eyes. I don't want to lose sight of you.

Outside, the cedars. Beyond them a smooth body of water.

Honor Moore, "Gnostic" from Red Shoes. Copyright © 2005 by Honor Moore. Used by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Source: Red Shoes (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2005)
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  • Honor Moore is well known for her work as a playwright, memoirist, editor, and poet. She has edited selections of Amy Lowell’s poems, contemporary plays by American women, and poems from Russia, and is the author of several poetry collections, including Memoir and Red Shoes; two memoirs, The White Blackbird: A Life of the Painter Margarett Sargent by Her Granddaughter and The Bishop’s Daughter; the play Mourning Pictures; and numerous essays and reviews.

    She has said that her poems are “charts of where [she is], psychically and spiritually,” and her poetry has been acclaimed for its ability to be precise and emotionally complex, lyrical and vivid. Poet Fanny Howe likens her poems to paintings, praising her ability to create pleasures that “cross all such boundaries” between the visual world and the written word. Her prose has also drawn much praise, and created some controversy, for its direct treatment of...

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