So the moon walks into a bar. All the women
begin bleeding, all the men howl, and those who are both, or
neither, scream from the seams of their pants as blood
spurts from their throats.
It ain’t pretty, but the moon is.
So the moon walks into a bar and the neon signs flicker
out, so shown up by her glow that they don’t
even wanna show their faces.
So the moon winks—anyone got a light?
Everyone, even the non-smokers, produces lighters
or matchbooks from their pockets—Bics and Zippos,
Diamonds and Three Stars. The moon accepts
each proffered flame, lights a whole pack’s worth
of cigarettes, all different kinds. Kools, Fantasias,
Nat Sherman Black & Golds, Camels, Marlboros,
Winstons, Djarums, 555s, GPCs, and filterless Lucky Strikes.
She places them, one at a time, between her lipsticked lips.
The moon looks gorgeous through a haze of menthol,
clove, and tobacco, just like she does when you’re standing on a train
platform in some big American city and you see her rising,
huge and luminous, streaked with purple in the polluted smoke of the sky.
The door guy coughs at her, pointedly, and points
to the NO SMOKING sign, says but you can vape if you wanna.
The moon says fuck you, I’m the moon.
The moon refuses to vape. The moon can do whatever she wants
but she doesn’t wanna get kicked out. She finds
a half-empty pitcher of beer and drops all her cigarettes
in—she likes the sizzle when the ember meets
the liquid, likes the final small smoke signal
that puffs up from their tips just before they fizzle out.
So the moon sits down at the bar, places a swizzle stick
between her lips in lieu of a cigarette. The moon
has an oral fixation. Some guy sidles up to her
thinking he might get in the moon’s good graces,
but instead of flirting he starts right in with mansplaining.
You should quit smoking anyway, he says. It causes cancer and premature aging.
The moon rolls her eyes and says: fuck you, I’m the moon.
Let me moonsplain some things to you. Like, yeah,
smoking causes cancer. But so do microwaves.
And factories. And some guy making one small step,
sticking a flag in your face and claiming you
in the name of his country. And what the hell do I care
about premature aging? I’ve been here longer than you have
and I’ll be here long after you’re gone.
The moon is an ancient glamour babe, a ruined beauty
with a pockmarked face. Still, people write odes to her.
Odes to the distant light she gives on the long, cold nights,
her pale slivered silver, wreathed by an aurora of ice
and stars. Or the times she’s orange and swollen, looming
close like a sci-fi planet ready to collide with ours.
Or the rare nights she sweeps too much blush across her cheeks,
calls herself Super Blood Moon, dances like a harlot into the evening sky
and fans herself with earth’s umbra.
Tonight the moon has her hair teased to high heaven.
She’s all bouffant and chiffon and cat’s eye-liner,
like her name is Ronnie Spector and she’s about to belt out
“Baby, I Love You.” But she’d rather belt this guy—
who’s still talking at her—in the face. Rather sing:
when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s fuck you, I’m the moon.
Some other facts about the moon:
1. The moon is she / her, but the moon is non-binary.
The moon devours pronouns. The moon is also he
and they and every pronoun that ever existed
plus the ones that haven’t even been dreamed up yet.
The moon is a many-gendered queen and you,
worrying about the moon’s gender—you are a drag.
2. The moon doesn’t really have a dark side. The part
you think is darkness is just the part you can’t see.
(Though if you ask her, the moon prefers to say she’s all dark side.)
3. The moon isn’t made of cheese. Not limburger or brie
or white cheddar, and certainly not Kraft singles
or any other processed cheese-food product.
She is made of pillows, hoary bats, and hirquitickes (mostly those).
So the moon’s tired of hearing this guy talk
and he’s not worth breaking a nail over, so she gets up
from her stool, goes to shove some dollar bills into the jukebox.
It’s one of those newfangled digital ones which the moon hates,
she misses the warmth of vinyl and neon, even CDs
were better than digital. The only plus side to this kind
is that she can find pretty much whatever song she’s in the mood to hear
on any given night. Tonight the moon plays The Ronettes,
then a bunch of songs about herself—Bowie freaking out in a moonage daydream,
oh yeah, Neil Young dancing in the light of the harvest moon,
Elvis standing alone under the blue moon. She ends with her favorite—
Audrey Hepburn’s lonesome serenade about crossing that moon river in style. One day.
After that the moon’s about to cry and she needs another cigarette,
so she takes her whiskey out to the screened-in smoking porch.
Her rabbit pal, Harvey, is there, and something about the two of them
together brings the rest of the patrons flocking, ready to tell them all
about their biggest hopes, biggest regrets, biggest plans, biggest fears—
because nobody brings anything small into a bar around here.
The moon is used to it, hearing everyone’s laments,
blessing them with her soft light, but her heart’s not in it tonight.
She knows she should care about their divorces and unemployment,
their doomsday predictions and existential dread. She knows she should care
about all the sorrows of the world she looks down on, and she does, but tonight
she doesn’t want to think about bombs falling on Syria, she wants a bomb shot.
She doesn’t want to talk about melting sea ice, she only wants to watch the ice melt
in her rocks glass, then go and get another drink.
So the moon goes to take a piss in the Sailor’s Room,
then goes to take a selfie in the little Mermaids’ Room.
As she checks her makeup in the mirror she notices she’s seeing double.
She’s become two moons blurring into one reflection, a total eclipse of herself,
and she knows she’s drunk and should leave. She wobbles
her way out the door, and everyone says so long—
the bartender, the old punks on their wobbly stools
near the dartboard, the young couple making out in the back
corner, the folks playing pool—
they all stop what they’re doing to say goodnight, moon.
So the moon sits down on the curb. She watches the neon lights
(which have blinked back on now that she’s gone)
bleeding through the bar windows, giving a purple tint
to the remaining chunks of dirty snow. She thinks about
calling her on-again, off-again lover, the Miller High Life Girl,
and meeting her at the diner down the street, she could use some diner food,
something with enough grease that if she squeezed it out it would fill the Sea of Crises.
But then she remembers—there’s no smoking section there anymore, either
(no smoking anywhere), and it closed at ten (no longer Open All Nite).
So the moon lights one last cigarette and smokes it while she waits for her Uber
to arrive and take her home, to her little house on the dark edge of town,
where she will tilt toward bed and try not to wake the disapproving sun.
Jessie Lynn McMains (they/she) is a punk poet, beat zinester, and small press publisher. They are the author of numerous books and chapbooks, most recently The Loneliest Show on Earth and Wisconsin Death Trip, and are the owner and editor of Bone & Ink Press. You can find more on their website recklesschants.net, or follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie