“Moonless,” “Ars Poetica” and “My Mother’s Stories”

“Moonless,” “Ars Poetica” and “My Mother’s Stories”


From the window of the faded ranch

I watched a bird floating in the kiddie pool:

a loon, with its reticulated band of stars.

I knew which bird it was from the tilt

of its head, the calligraphy stripe

of its pointed beak. The loon’s ruby eye

was a constant, a soon-death luminescing

in the dark. It made no cry across

the dry grass, and for once the wind

calmed the dim circle of the pool.

Ars Poetica

Hummingbird moth—tiny hawk

at dusk. Nothing will announce

its presence but what I’d give

to see one. Thunder, tinkling keys.

Then I think I spot a clearwing

(fuzzy-backed, maroon), never mind

this one doesn’t hover—it flaps.

I stalk it to the shrub. I put my face

real close and the injured bat

squeaks and I jump back. I hate bats.

The bulbous eyes, the piggish nose,

the little cries and teeth. No

dainty curl of a proboscis I swear

I am always followed by bats,

both in and out of sleep. Caged,

wooden slats—it is my job

to lift the latch so I force myself

to do it. Haptic, harrowing. One

always goes straight for my face

and I hit it and it’s helpless.

I wake to its musty smell which

follows me to the light, to the desk.

When I write I feel the brush

of its hopeful paper wings.

My Mother's Stories


The woman wore a corset with

a cinched waist, lace dragging

on the path behind her. She watered

the rose bushes in the evenings,

hair pinned in loose curls. ‘Did water

come out of the can?’ I asked.

‘It looked like nothing did,’ my mother

said. ‘And the woman poured nothing

carefully, at a slow and steady tilt,

then would look up at my window

before continuing her task.’


They were jumping on the couches

while their parents were away

when she saw a pair of arms flailing

in the nook next to the wall.

With there being so many children

she didn’t know who it could be—

she pounced and toppled not onto

a body, but empty floor.


The sisters saw a boy not unlike their brother

when one would go alone into the barn.

He had a straw hat that matched his hair, smoked

a pipe and in some accounts crouched

on a bale of hay just behind a shaft of sunlight

and the smoke curled upwards

always into the sun he appeared to each and every

sister. ‘At first I’d think that it was Anders,’

my mother said. ‘But Anders never wore overalls.

His face was the same but this boy

said nothing, and when I knew it wasn’t him

the barn felt cold.’


In the photo, five children perch in sloped branches

of the dying sycamore, the four sisters in dresses sewn

floral, my uncle the boy with blonde hair on the highest

branch. The girls’ brown hair waist-length, always parted

down the middle, ‘which was in style back then. Rip rip rip

my mother would say was the sound of her mother’s comb

in the morning. She laughed about it, told me again and

again how my blonde hair reminded her of Anders’. How

her parents tried for more boys, kept having girls. ‘But why

have more kids if you don’t like ’em, anyways?’ I asked.

She shrugged. ‘A big brood—that was in style.’

About the Author

Ana Pugatch

Ana Pugatch is the '20-'21 Poetry Heritage Fellow at George Mason University. She is a Harvard graduate who worked in Asia for several years before recently returning to the states. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as The Los Angeles Review, Foothill Poetry Journal, Cagibi, and The Bangalore Review, among others.