Paper Moon


A late winter morning
of pristine beauty;
winter on the cusp
of spring.

A clear blue sky, festooned
with white clouds.
Denuded trees shake
in the breeze.
And a small white moon
hangs on bare branches.

Not the true, majestic moon;
a flimsy, white paper bag,
saturated by sun,
blown onto the trees,
by some whimsical breeze.

Its frantic movements,
its tenuous, clinging hold
on the branches;
how it is buffeted,
relentlessly, remorselessly,
by the breeze . . .

I think of how
we, too, are thrown
into the world; impaled
on the harsh, bare branches
of circumstance,
buffeted by the breezes
of Fate . . .

Then I smile, and think:
don’t be so absurd!
For it is, after all,
just a paper bag,
blown onto a tree.
Contingent, accidental.

I was a teenager in the 60’s, fortunate enough to be growing up at a time of wild excitement in pop culture and the arts.  I remember that even the arid field of Philosophy had modish figures at the time, with the French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus.  “Existentialism” became a trendy topic of conversation, although nobody seemed to understand exactly what it meant.  Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot” was a sensational theatrical success, and everyone was talking about “The Theatre of the Absurd”.  In my local public library, I happened to come across a book called “The Outsider” by Colin Wilson, and I was enthralled by his account of visionary artists and  philosophers, and their struggle to find meaning in an absurd universe.

The reason I mention all this is as a contextual background, or partial explanation, of why I wrote the poem “Paper Moon”.  I began the poem simply as a description of the paper bag I saw caught on a tree; then a whole stream of high-flown images started suggesting themselves.  By the time I finished, I was more or less poking ridicule at myself for having written it in the first place; but I’d like to think there is a bit more to the poem than just a simple description.  I don’t expect readers of the poem to be inspired into deep philosophical thoughts, but, in writing it, some of the Existentialist ideas of how we create “meaning” for ourselves did begin to stir at the back of my mind.


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