Writes Brendan Constantine: Gail Gauldin Moore is a quiet veteran of L.A.’s scene. Never a schmoozer, uninterested in the fame game, Moore has nevertheless endured as a true sister for the cause. She dates her career as a poet to right around 1990, but when reading her work, I can’t help but feel this is merely the date she went public. As someone must’ve said by now, every poem takes a lifetime, and her bio completely bears this out. Though she claims to have come to poetry late in life, what’s late? There are  no child prodigies in writing; no baby Mozarts at our keyboards. You have to have been somewhere. You have to have done something. We come when we’re ready. What I hope doesn’t take so long is the publication of her next book. It’s a ‘new and selected’ collection and, if you ask me, it’s overdue.

BC: What’s your first memory of being moved by a poem?

Gail Gauldin Moore: I must have been very small. Maybe a year? I can remember my mother reading to me from Conrad Aiken. His piece ‘Music I Heard’ – “Your hands once touched this table and this silver./I saw your fingers hold this glass/ These things do
not remember you beloved:/ yet your touch upon them will not pass.”

She also quoted A.E. Housman’s ‘Shropshire Lad’ – “On your midnight pallet lying,/listen and undo the door./Lads that waste the light in sighing/ In the dark should sigh no more.” These were my nursery rhymes and they stayed with me.

BC: When did you begin to identify as a poet?

GGM: THAT TOOK A LONG, LONG TIME. Even years after I started writing. Probably, when someone cried at a poem I read at the YMCA. Sometimes I say, “I’m a poet,” but that sounds artificial and like I’m talking about someone who lives many mountains away. Anyway, I am a poet, and I am not at all a poet, seems to be a constant.

BC: What has changed most in your relationship with poetry since you began? Or is it unchanged?

GGM: I long to write in fewer words: in as few words as is possible. But my bar is high, I also find, that workshops, (poetry – although I haven’t gone to very many) depress me because of their vacuity and also because I feel that what is being born, will be killed It must be born first – then the “darlings” can go.

Playing ‘Why / Because’ with Gail Gauldin Moore
Summer 2016

Why is the sky blue?

            Because, darling, I can’t dance.

Why does the wind blow?

            Because everything is a close call.

Why do birds fly?

            Because no one is greater or more noble
            when they fill out their resume.

Why do the trees wait?

            Because I am all the birds in the world.

Why does the earth sleep?

            Because I don’t have my own dreams.

(Questions by Brendan Constantine / Answers by Gail Gauldin Moore)

Meeting the Needs of the Dead
By Gail Gauldin Moore

The rose is perfidious.
Nothing lasts.

I want my lover.
We climbed the make-up tree
over and over again.

I want my mother
who is hiding in space.

Once, after seeing you,
we pulled off the road
and cried.

There is nothing else
I can say.

Daughter of the Rain
By Gail Gauldin Moore

I changed your name
to sea flower.
I changed your name
to looking glass. I changed
your name to sweet Marie
and when all of that was silly
as you never called,
then life was an empty vase
or in-between
one thing or another.

You changed my name
from Mother
to – woman wearing slippers
in a dark hallway.

When you went away
I changed my name to
apple slices and bit off
parts of myself.

When you stopped us’
I changed my name to
Nancy of the silences.

Nomads of the Heart
By Gail Gauldin Moore

My people
have fallen out of their photograph.

The sun and moon wear messy clothes.
I have nowhere to put this knowledge.

I sit in a back row, following morning to morning,
while the privileged build their privilege around me.

If I stay inside my shadow I will not see them.
I cannot stay in my shadow with no memories.

My childhood remembers me but
it has backed up and spills over my best effort.

The privileged go around me.
But my shadow is not diffident.

If I scream, it will cover the sky.
My childhood was large and lived near the sky.

It always wrote what it knew
and there were no prompts.

Gail Gauldin Moore started writing poetry when she was 4 but stopped when she was 5. She began again in her 50s after a vision of a strange animal emerging from a cave to shake off its wool. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and she has won several awards without really seeking them out. In 2001 she received the Pacificus Foundation Award for best poet. She lives in Los Angeles after spending some years in Oregon. Don’t look for her there. The poems printed here, aside from Playing ‘Why / Because’ with Gail Gauldin Moore, appear in her manuscript, Raven’s Mantra.