What the Moon Saw-Twelfth Evening

Moon by Ashe ArterberryWhat the Moon Saw-Twelfth Evening

On the twelfth evening the moon found himself at a publishing house. There was an editor and a couple of other men there with him. They were discussing two books of poetry. One of the books was written by a man who was a little more acceptable in society than the other. The other man was considered wild.

The editor and his associates began discussing the two poets. One was alright, but not great. One man wondered if one of the poets actually expected him to buy his book. The other poet was wild and not very good at punctuation. They recommended that he study the masters. Eventually, it got to a point where one could not tell which poet the men were discussing.

The moon left to see the poets themselves. They were both with their respective groups of people at home.

A girl sat in the corner at the wild poet’s house reading this:

“In the dust lies genius and glory,

But ev’ry-day talent will pay,

It’s only the old, old story.

But the piece is repeated each day.”

This was the twelfth evening.


Poetry is not my thing. I used to write poetry and I suppose at times my writing can be somewhat poetic, but I do not consider myself a poet. I have a cousin who is a poet, but it’s just not my thing.

Let me tell you something about poetry–you have your Shakespeare with his iambic pentameter, you have your Emily Dickinson, you have your Greek poets from days long past, and you even have your Sappho, these poets I’ve mentioned are considered something of a benchmark. People will say, “Now, that’s poetry,” when you speak of these people, but minds have changed. Poetry has transformed over the years. People are still perfectly happy with the type of poetry written by Shakespeare, but less formal poetry has become a thing.

You don’t have to have the correct punctuation. You don’t have to have a rhyming poem. You don’t even have to write the poem from right to left. Poetry, like visual art or any other art medium, has changed over the years to experiment and accept more unconventional expressions as its own. If I would have read some E.E. Cummings to people four-hundred years ago and told them it was poetry, they would have probably burned me at the stake, but these days, E.E. Cummings is considered a poet. There’s no caveat to it; he’s a poet; he’s dead, but he’s a poet.

One of these men was more conventional in his poetry, while the other was stepping on new ground. The editor and his men wanted the wild poet to be more like conventional poets, more like Shakespeare with all his rhythm and rhyme.


The little poem at the end of this story gives us our theme. Let’s interpret it just a bit.

  1. In the dust lies genius and glory=the old poets are dead and in the ground
  2. But ev’ry-day talent will pay=mediocre poetry will pay the bills
  3. It’s only the old, old story=it’s been this way for a long time
  4. But the piece is repeated each day=it happens all the time it will continue to happen

In summation, this poem speaks of how everyone refers back to the considered masters for inspiration and artwork. Those masters are dead, but we continue to want to emulate their work. People who emulate their work can make money while the people who try new things are often given an uncertain future.

In the end though, it’s the people who do new things who create progress and move any art form forward.

I had a professor in college who called this type of thing “Kitsch.” Kitsch is a German word. If you look up the official proper definition it basically means to create something considered in poor taste and then appreciate it anyway, perhaps ironically. My professor used kitsch to represent situations where an artist created predictable artwork to appeal to the most people and make the most money. His prime example was Thomas Kinkade. Look, those paintings of his look nice, but come on, they’re everywhere; they’re not very original. They were Thomas’ career, but also a cash cow. You never ever expected Thomas Kinkade to release a new series of artwork depicting naked women or splotches of paint across a canvas. He painted little cottages and churches and landscapes that all looked very similar to one another.

The whole idea is that convention is safe. People will pay you for conventional. People will pay you for that house that looks like all the other houses on the street. People will pay you for that car that looks like all the other cars. People will pay you for that rug that looks like the rug everyone else has in their homes. Conventional guarantees a paycheck, that is, until conventions are changed. How are conventions changed? Conventions are changed when people push forward and do different things. It takes a man like the wild poet in this story to change how we think of something. Eventually we will adopt as conventional things that were once strange and bizarre to us. Even when conventions are changed, there will always be those people who refuse to adopt new conventions, you can’t change their minds and you can’t force them; they’re just forever stuck in past conventions.

People stick on this idea that things should be proper and follow ideas that have always been followed. As a result, when you do something that doesn’t quite fit that mold people complain. As a personal example I had someone comment on my website. They said my writing was full of typos(It wasn’t, although, I am aware that sometimes typos escape my eye from time to time.) and was generally not up to par. There are so-called “proper” ways to write in English. I do not follow those ways because I’m trying to write in a manner that people will actually read. Will people read some stuffy writing that sounds like it’s straight out some snooty criticism book written expressly for other snooty people who criticize things? Yes, the snooty criticism people might read it, but other than that not many people are going to read it. English is a changeable language.

The wild poet just needed some time. It may not be time that happens within the span of his life. With time the poet’s work would be recognized as real work and not so highly criticized. His style of writing may eventually be recognized as admirable work and sit upon shelves next to Shakespeare and the like.


Dare to push forward even if it is unconventional because you’re the ones who are going to make the new conventions.

Weigh In

What do you think of the editor and his cronies?

Be conventional or not?

What the Moon Saw-Fifth Evening

Moon by Ashe ArterberryWhat the Moon Saw-Fifth Evening

The moon gets around.

On the fifth evening the moon came to the artist he told the artist of something he had seen in Paris. There the moon had looked upon an elderly woman. The woman had gained admittance to a place that she otherwise would not have been allowed. She knew that she had to see it. There was a servant with her.

She saw the room and observed it for the throne room that it was, but it had not always been so put together. Many years previous France had been going through the revolution and this room had been a mess. It was also where her son had died.

The room she was in was in the Tuileries. The angry people of the revolution had stormed the palace. Things were destroyed. This throne room had been awash in blood. When the old woman’s son had been born it had been prophesied that he would die on the throne of France. The woman had imagined that maybe her son would grow to be a great conqueror, but it was not so. He had marched into the Tuileries along with all the other revolutionaries. There was a skirmish. He was mortally injured. Before he died, his body was placed upon the throne of France and there he died with his wounds wrapped in royal purple velvet.

That was the fifth evening.

What the Moon Saw-Fifth EveningObservations

The revolution of France was a bloody period of world history. People were getting their heads guillotined off left and right. An innocent family, there were many of them, but the royal family was the top among them, was torn apart. The place where they were staying, the Tuileries, was stormed by the revolutionaries. People lost their lives. The royal family was taken captive. Louis and Marie were later executed, for nothing; they were scapegoats. Their sons died. The only surviving member of their family was Marie Therese and one can hardly live a normal life after what happened to her family.

There are entire books, musicals, and movies based on the French Revolution. It was truly a spectacular period of history. The people rose up and took their country into their own hands, which is admirable, but there was so much blood-shed. There was turmoil everywhere. Things were bad. Things were bad before the revolution, thus why there needed to be a revolution in the first place.

This old woman’s son got caught up in the revolution and he died for it. Was it a worthy cause? Was it a just cause? Did his death make any difference? These are definitely questions that have highly subjective answers. These were questions that his mother was probably trying to determine the answers to by her visit to the Tuileries.

What the Moon Saw-Fifth EveningThemes

There was a prophecy involved in this story. I don’t know why so many story people seemed to get birth prophecies. The closest I have heard to a birth prophecy is when people check out a new baby boy and say that he will be a big man. Birth prophecy isn’t really a concept I’m familiar with. Who made these prophecies? Was it just some kooky relative or was it someone with some actual mystical power?

Prophecy is something you either believe in or you don’t. It is foretold that…… You don’t have to believe what is foretold. Do you believe it on some subconscious level though? If the foretold thing happens was it fate or did you somehow make it happen because the idea of it kept going around in your head? Did the son in this story think of his prophecy so much that he caused himself to be near the throne of France when he died? Did he subconsciously put himself in the line of danger there so that he might receive a mortal wound?

When we ask all these questions, we’re getting into both “woo-woo” territory, but also psychological territory. Our minds are pretty powerful and we can do more with them than we think.

Going with the idea of prophecy, it doesn’t always turn out black and white, meaning, it doesn’t always turn out how you might expect it to. Sure, your dreams might come true, but in a way you never expected, or they might come true, but only to an extent, or it’s completely different than you ever imagined. Just because it was prophesied that you would die on the throne of France does not mean you will be king. It could mean that you’re going to die in the revolution on the throne of France, or that you’re a carpenter and you’re working on building a new throne for the king but you suddenly have a massive heart attack, or just whatever.

Prophecy is one thing, if you believe in it, but interpreting it correctly is a completely different thing.


Maybe it’s just best to stay away from prophecies and live your life how you want to live it.

Weigh In

Do you think fate laughed at the son and his mother?

Do you think we should bring back the idea of birth prophecies?

What the Moon Saw-First Evening

What the Moon Saw-First Evening

My Apologies. I accidentally skipped over the Moon’s first evening yesterday.

What the Moon Saw-First Evening

Ah, on with the moon and its travels.

The artist was lonely in his apartment, but the moon had promised that he would come and tell the artist the things he had seen so he would not be lonely. On the first evening the moon had been in India shining upon the Ganges. There upon the shore of the Ganges was a young woman. She brought with her a lamp. She set the lamp upon the river and watched it float away. She knew that if it stayed lit her love was alive. If the flame was suddenly extinguished then her love was dead. She watched on. The flame stayed lit. She was happy and overjoyed that her love was still alive, even though there was a snake near her feet.

That was the first night.

What the Moon Saw-First EveningObservations

I’ve never heard of this superstition that the young woman performs. Believe it or not, there is an Indian tradition to set lit lanterns upon the rivers, but it doesn’t quite match up with what the girl does in this story. The festival is called Diwali and it lasts five days in India. How you would practice Diwali is determined by where you’re at in India and what religion you are. The third day of Diwali is known as Lakshmi Puja. One of the things people do on Lakshmi Puja is lights lanterns everywhere, often in rows, but they will also light lanterns, called Diyas, and set them afloat on rivers and other waters. This is the day of Diwali where people think about and celebrate important relationships and friendships.

The girl in this story is performing more of a fortune-telling superstition. It sounds very similar to the practice by which a young woman would look over her shoulder into a mirror down into a well to see her future husband. This ritual she performs sounds more like a silly superstition rather than any actual cultural or religious ritual, but I could be wrong. India is a big place; it’s known as a sub-continent after all. People in India have all kinds of traditions depending on where in the country they live. This may actually be a little backwoodsy tradition that people practice in India, but it honestly sounds more like a European import, much like looking down a well with a mirror.

You have to remember that India is a country that largely practiced arranged marriage. There would have been young women who fell in love and hoped for a relationship with their chosen man, but was it common? Was it likely? It probably wasn’t as likely as we would think it would be, but we also have to take into consideration that India was colonized at one point by the British and British ideas and ways of living were carried to India. Things were changing. Was it probable that there was a young woman sneaking out at night to set a lantern upon the water to see if her love was alive? No, it wasn’t probable, but it wasn’t impossible.

What the Moon Saw-First EveningThemes

I think the moon showed the artist that he wasn’t alone in his loneliness when he told him of the first night. There were people other places who were just as lonely as he was. This young woman was alone waiting for her love to return. She didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. She just waited. She hung onto a silly superstition in hopes that he might still be alive. The world around, no matter your race or country of origin, you can be lonely; you can feel the same emotions everywhere else feels. In the fact that others are lonely as well, you’re not quite as lonely as you originally thought.


Why mention the snake?

Weigh In

What other superstitions akin to the superstition the girl performs in this story do you know?

Do you think the artist felt less lonely after hearing this story?

What the Moon Saw-Second Evening

What the Moon Saw-Second EveningWhat the Moon Saw-Second Evening

…and the moon goes on.

The second evening the moon came to the artist the moon told him of looking out into a courtyard. There he saw a young girl scattering the hen and her chicks. The hen was scared and made lots of noise. The father came and got onto the little girl. A few minutes later the little girl crept back out and into the hen-house. At first the father was mad when he found out, but the little girl simply told him that she wanted to beg forgiveness of the hen for frightening her.

“And the father kissed the innocent child’s forehead, and I [the moon] kissed her on the mouth and eyes.”

screenshot-books google com 2015-02-28 16-53-06Observations

This isn’t a story of loneliness as the first story the moon told was. This is a story of simple humanity. This girl was acting as a child does, by causing a ruckus, and she was chastised for it. She realized her wrong and wanted to ask forgiveness, even if chickens don’t really forgive people.

Chickens aren’t really friendly animals. I know there are exceptions. Chickens have been known to be quite friendly at points, especially to children. My uncle used to have a chicken that followed him around everywhere outside. In general though, chickens aren’t friendly like mammals can be. They don’t cuddle, generally. They’re probably not going to respond highly to you trying to pet them or play with them. Birds kind of speak a different language than mammals do.

For example, you’re really not supposed to pet a bird’s back. They see it as foreplay. I’m not making this up. The reaction from probably varies from bird type to bird type, but it is recommended that you only pet your bird on the head. My point in mentioning this is that this little girl could try all she wanted to, but that chicken wasn’t going to see her intrusion as anything but a threat, or at the very least a bother. There was no way this chicken was going to be like, “Hey, Cindy, I accept your apology for scaring me earlier. We can cuddle now.”


This little girl, besides being something of a terror, is like all children are…innocent and naive. She doesn’t understand that this chicken isn’t going to talk reasonably with her about this. This chicken isn’t going to let this little girl hug her. This chicken isn’t going to cuddle. This little girl doesn’t really see it that way though. Children don’t really understand differences between lifeforms for a while. To them a person and a dog might as well be on the same level. Drink water out of the dog’s bowl, drink water out of your father’s cup, what’s the difference? They eventually do grow to understand that people are people and animals are animals, but it takes a few years.

While illustrating that children are kind of stupid in the differentiating animal behavior from human behavior department, this story also illustrates that children can be very sweet and very Godlike in their actions. They haven’t yet developed that guile and skepticism of the world that would prevent them from feeling that the chicken should be apologized to. As adults we can fall into these bogs of thinking that we don’t have to be careful of how our actions affect other people. We do have to be careful about that, but we often get too wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t think we do. If children take the time to think about it, they believe that they should apologize for their actions to everyone and everything. Of course, children don’t act like that all the time, otherwise they wouldn’t even consider waking us up in the middle of the night, but every once in a while, we can see this amazing action shine through this little person who is otherwise a pain in the butt.

It’s just an example of how sometimes we need to take our cues from the little slobber and mess factories that  are children.


One time I did see a video where a chicken let a little boy hug it.

Weigh In

What’s something your child has done that seems silly and you want to be mad about it, but you really can’t because it was too sweet in its own way?

Do you think the moon is trying to teach the artist anything with this particular story?