Moon Shadows: Redux


blue razor shadows tangle
bare bones of trees
against soft shoulders of hills
white daggers
angled from behind
dark translucence buried in new snow

Eyes exposed to silver bright,
make seamless memory
From sigh of wind, smell of cold
And then, a motion, somewhere, movement–

Like the flicker of a silent movie
And again. Not movement sudden
Faintly at the edge of vision
subtle, massive and unnamed.

With lunacy and light
The valley fills, empties as
dark waves surge past, and another–
An armada–cloudships propelled by moonbeams.

White light and blue, they came
In liquid shadows shades of gray
the size of meadows surging
from behind us — under our feet
Poured into creeks and quickly away
Rising without effort under snow under oaks
To the top of the ridge and gone.

The world flashed from life to death
From shadow of cloud to light of the Unfamiliar
And I am terrified and I am made whole–
a frail vapor so close to heaven
So In love with this pulsing world.


Very rare in my experience, a night with snow on the ground, a half moon or more, and scattered clouds blowing shadows across the nightscape of our pasture. I wrote this description above in 2003 and saw the exact same thing, had the same wonderful terror all over again, last night.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Lovely poem, Fred. I had not started reading you in 2003, so I missed it the first time. The photo is gorgeous, too. Did you have to use a tripod and long exposure?

  2. Thank you for noticing the rare poem–wish I took time to do more of that, or felt more often moved to do so. This one will be in the upcoming book, maybe even the picture (small, b&w, but hopefully evocative of the feel of the moment and the words that describe them.)

  3. I usually don’t “understand” poetry, but I understand this one – very nice, Fred. Have you taken more pictures of this combination of moon/snow/shadow?

  4. I liked the phrase “cloudships propelled by moonbeams…”

    I have cross-country skied by moonlight in Colorado and felt that same wonderful terror – this quite brought it all back.

    Thanks also for the link to the stove website – I’m liking what I see there.