Deirdre Maultsaid

Deirdre Maultsaid

Recent Puritan contributor Deirdre Maultsaid discusses her poem “Shine on, You Moons of Jupiter” from Issue XXII: Summer 2013 of The Puritan.

The poem “Shine on, you moons of Jupiter” is about women’s moral agency. Why does Bess, the landlord’s daughter, in Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman,” have to sacrifice her own life to warn the man, who was, after all, a violent thief? Why does the mermaid in “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen have to sell her voice to be with the prince? Bess and the mermaid—these romantic female figures—have no agency, and no independent role in public life. “Shine on, you moons of Jupiter” suggests alternative endings to their stories: “walk out, still singing.”

The “I” in the poem claims to be a “knower” and a “doer,” a sniper who can overcome “the virtueless / human family story.” The narrator claims to be a conduit to the divine because “I say so.” Even if they are the “moons” of Jupiter, the narrator confirms the moral agency of women. The narrator shows the reader images of the “divine”: the stars, solo trips, and even life-long entertainer Donny Osmond’s smile. Most surprisingly, the narrator asserts that women’s “incandescent” inner voice is also moral and divine.

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