A Field Guide to the Moths of North America
Promethea

Midsummer vibrato. Nightfall of yellow
poplar, spicebush and sassafras. Sex
at altitude will end in the underbrush.
Our next subject: the moon.


Luna

All day you horded your shadow,
but at dusk, the spider web
in the low branches of the birch caught
and held, for an instant, the sun.


Grape Leaffolder

I lie curled in the leaf, antennae to yesteryear.
The joy of not-to-be-seen rivals the joy
of not-to-have-been. I missed you this morning,
light-long and blinding horizon. And wind,
wind infinitesimal at the base of the stalk
where passes through dreaming the noonday
thunder of the marching ants’ hooves.


Three-banded Fairy

Arrest and suspension. Pasture 
and cloud band, one moment frozen
in the sepia light of the 1970s,
a lakeshore, a blanket spread on the grass
and the smell of smoke from a camp fire.
Could you wake now, it would be resurrection. 
A flutter, a stir. Your mother’s hair.
Your father’s voice. A word
whispered out of the dirt.


Virginia Ctenucha

I'll begin within you, your smallest darkness.
Saints are destroyed by their ecstasy, such exuberance
as mine. The cells divide. I squirm in the loam.
The cells divide again! My wings!
A tiny breath unsettles the dust. Then rupture,
metastasis. Metamorphosis in May.


Salt Marsh

Just a scrap of white silk in the clover.
A gentleman will wear a white
bow tie after nightfall for the most formal
occasions—an inauguration perhaps,
or the sinking of an ocean liner. 
Shall we fly or shall we feed?
Think of me fastened at your dead father’s throat.


Darling Underwing

I’m a broken chip of bark, the skeleton of a leaf,
whatever’s left-off and useless, and anyway, Lord,
you’re already glutted on the Autumn smoke of burning
bodies. Turn your face from me. A loving father
won’t spare the rod, but I’m fatherless and past
correction. These colors help me hide.


Yucca

The meanest flower that blows, and day wombed
in its underfolds. The thing I've waited my whole life
to tell you can now go unsaid. Lowly, lovely, love.
Forestall. Wait for me on your side
of the morning. For now, a marvel in the meadow:
the last light twists on a single petal’s edge.


Carolina Sphinx

A dying grub. What’s lowlier than pupating
inside this desiccated shell? I’m an amputated
digit in the dirt, nectarivorous at night.
I hover with remarkable stillness above the flowers
on headstones—drink those
severed currents. All night the dead flutter past
your window on thousands of wings.


American Dagger

So serious, son. A little tact, a little circumspection—
try not to head straight for the flame.
Eventually it’s the slow burn
of aftermath anyway, the occasional return—

the play of light, a step in the dance, a certain silly song.
As you fly home for Christmas, it’s John Denver
and a bag of peanuts, dusk over Colorado,
red snow-streaks on the summits.
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply. 


Webworm

I’m coiled deep in the skittery
paper-shuffle of communal life.
Sententious, my hair
parted behind. And though dull as you please—
the white hallway, the pleasantries
exchanged in the elevator—
I’ll wait long enough to lap
your blood from a leaf.


Coddling

The bottom-line: you’ll never come first.
The theme is need and I devour. Apple, walnut,
pear—O sad suburbia! O grim internia,
distant dawn! Who’ll be with us in the round
of our need? Who’ll be left to draw the curtains?
Who’ll be left to mow the lawn?


Common Sheep

Who are you that moves among these shades?
Aaron, come off it! Here we are at the swamp’s edge,
and here are the salmonberries. See the cattails?
Pull one from the mud. Wipe the frog-spawn
and strip it to the stalk. The root tastes like cucumber. 


Silver-spotted Ghost

I fly unseen through your interstices
of expectation. And with no love
for the lights of the living.
Glimpse me if at all sidelong and streamside
at dusk. Then meet me again just past
the lines of your own disappearing.


Clouded Crimson

Night again. Catechisms of unasked questions and ungiven answers.
Want death to be the fallacy—and dream? Or the dream
to be the fallacy—and death? Refrain.


Fall Cankerworm 

Refrain. At last the marvel and the terror, the wordless You.
Be still. The new muscles twitch. The wings scrape at the shell.
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