Interpretive Dance of Moonlight

Again, the summer issue of Poetry magazine has captured my devotion. Brad Leithauser’s “Furnishings of the Moon” in the July/August issue of Poetry is not a single poem, but a connected sextet of smaller poems. What are the furnishings of the moon? Leithauser postulates in his mini-poems that those furnishings are a “Telephone,” a “Claw-Footed Bathtub,” a “Refrigerator,” a “Neighbor’s Radio,” a “Tree,” and an “Old Furnace.”

“Telephone” starts the sextet of poems with an aloof voice hoping for mere quiet as the lights go out. Once the metaphorical house is dark, readers are taken on a journey from one room to another. We follow the guest down the hallway like shadows; and in the bathroom, we come upon a “Claw-Footed Bathtub.” “find the switch–and hesitate./They’d vanish at a touch./” These lines intimate the guest is aware of our presence as if we are ghosts from the past or memories the guest is trying to hold onto–relish in. The mini-poems twist the realistic purpose of these mundane objects to highlight the inner struggles of the voice and a guest.

“Refrigerator” draws parallels between an insatiable guest and an empty icebox in need of fulfillment. “Its sleepy hum’s the sated hum of someone who/Ate nearly everything.” Insatiable voids in the kitchen sweep through open windows on the current of radio sounds. The narrator wants to remain cut off; but at the same time, curiosity takes over and the narrator cannot help but listen to the “Neighbor’s Radio.”

While the “Neighbor’s Radio” is outside the primary space I envision the poet discussing and the guest walking through, it really only has to do with the voice’s inability to ignore the outside noise. However, there is one mini-poem outside the structure, “Tree.” The tree vacant of its leaves still makes contact with the guest in the house when the wind is just right. “the bony branches bend/To the glass, tap-tap a few lines,/” Is the tree making contact or willing the guest to come outside and be inspired by its musings. Perhaps the tree is the poet–tapping out lines of verse. There are multiple interpretations here. While the title “Furnishings of Moonlight” can be interpreted literally, it also can be taken to mean how moonlight cascades upon items. In these poems I view the moonlight more like a lens through which the voice views given situations. “Old Furnace” caps off the sextet with a retreat into the supposed silence of darkness, but “Outside the cave’s mouth, predator/Howls after prey.”