The Ancient Modern

The Boy Who Tasted the Moon  /  Joshua Alan Sturgill

Once upon a time…

…a boy who lived near the ocean believed the moon was made of salt.

The first time he saw the moon in the daytime sky, he was very young. Amazed and excited, he could only point and say the name of the moon again and again.

But the people around him were to busy to notice.

In daylight, the moon was very small and nearly transparent. The boy thought he saw pale colors in the moonpink and blue-grey and silver-white. They reminded him of something in his kitchen at home.

The moon is made of salt, he said.

At night, he would hear the quiet rush of waves and dream about the moon.

Sometimes he dreamt the moon came down to bathe in the ocean. She was a lovely Woman, with feet like sparkling marble. As she washed, some of the salt from her beautiful hair mixed into the water.

Sometimes, the moon was a great Ship speeding down from the sky. Its sails were high up where the wind blows very quickly, and the Ship traveled fast with the water splashing and breaking on its salty prow.

Sometimes, the boy watched as a Cook in a tall, white hat, fiercely and joyfully stirred the ocean with a silver ladle. The Cook would reach behind him among the clouds and stars, and throw great handfuls of the moon into the water as he stirred.

When the boy cried, he tasted the salt in his tears and knew that the moon had been near to comfort him.

When he played and sweat dripped from his forehead, he said that the moon had invented a new game.

When he went to the seaside, he smelled the salt in the air. He built a sand-castle he knew the moon would like: a castle with arches and domes. It had a great, round courtyard in the middle for the moon to sleep in.

He tried to tell his parents, his aunts and uncles, his cousins. But they only smiled and laughed. No one believed him, though they enjoyed his stories.

After some time, the boy, too, began to doubt himself.

At school, his teacher said the moon was made of rock. What kind of rock? the boy asked. But his teacher didn’t know.

At home, his parents said the moon was very far away. How far away? the boy asked. Many miles, his parents said. How many miles? he asked. But his parents didn’t know.

His friends said the moon only moved in circles, because of gravity. What is gravity? he asked. But his friends couldn’t explain.

The boy was very sad. He didn’t understand what they said, but he thought maybe they were right.

One night, he fell asleep thinking about the moon. He dreamed that the moon had set low enough to come right in through his bedroom window, filling it with dim, sparking light.

He woke suddenly when the moon quietly called his name.

His whole room was covered in salt, settled like diamond dust on his clock and his lamp and his toys. Delicate salt crystals like coral or the branches of trees sprang up out of the floor. His walls shimmered like the glaciers in his geography book.

Carefully, he reached out to take some of the salt from his bedside table. It was warm and soft on his fingers. He put a little in his mouth. Unmistakably salt! It made him pucker; it dried his lips; his mouth watered and he could taste it: a taste like the sea, like soup, like tears, like sweat, like all his favorite meals.

He thought again of the moon as a Woman, bathing, the moon as a great salt Ship rushing through the water, the moon as the giant Cook stirring up the ocean.

The boy was content. He fell back asleep and dreamed he was walking on the surface of the moon, seeing all the pale colors—pink, blue-grey and silver-white.

When he woke, the sun was up and all the salt had dissolved and disappeared.

But the boy knew the moon had visited him, and all the next day he smiled and laughed. His parents asked him why he was so happy.

He did not tell them. He only asked for a glass of water because he was very, very thirsty.

All poetry and supplementary material: copyright 2020 by Joshua Alan Sturgill

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