MOTH | a novella in something like verse


The doctors lift him from a nine-year coma

cranking him up to gaze into his dazzled pupils

Bright spikes from shining implements stab his death-numbed eyes
pinning him to struggle against the tipped chair
A new electric jolts through him
and they shake hands over his shattered pate
neglecting to call his name

He is pinned in light
as he was pinned in darkness
between their eyes and the chair
This breath is nothing new
and for it he is neither grateful nor ungrateful

Later they ask him what he feels

What happened to him

Who he is
But his words are of light
Light only

He is still and stares at each sharp spectacle
the rhinestone leaves of morning
the sequined particles that dance between
the heated windowpanes
and his own pearlescent feet

And when he takes his tea
the interrogation lights that animate the silver
Pressed and courted by eager villagers
whose spit-glossed whispers
request he shed some light — he waits —
stretches out knotted

shaking fingers
to caress the polished marble surface
of a café table

His labored breathing is for the light
His painful gate brings him toward the light
His baths are full of light
His food is mouth

tongue and lips caressing the light

His nurse does well to sit him by the water where the sands

stretching far away as a scream

present him to the searing sky on a vast alter of tiny lights

The mystery breaths a trapped rhythm
caught up in the web of plastic filaments that light up the end of his beach chair A voluptuous woman
casts a cautious eye
rolls past and crosses behind one flashlight ear
behind him
gazes at the pinhead silver hairs
sparkling now with sweat
on his fresh-shaven nape

Her eyes
slate and darkness
revile the dumb moth
She rolls on


This Town where he lay sleeping
for nine blank years
is missing from every map
Huddled against the ocean
it is a place where the affluent come to detox
and to hide their money
and to pick out new faces to carry around in front of them
like armor at art fairs and board meetings

The town is used to them
It feeds off their
teeth after long lush dinners

He is breathing softly now beneath a stiff sheet
his indifferent gaze
the same as that of the cynical shop owners down in the street
as they shout sunny welcome to florid tourists
His bundled form is a sponge left sighing in dishwater
souring leftovers clinging to porcelain-white bedding

He is staring at the ceiling lights
hovering in flourecent minims
above his immaculate iron bed
Incipient footsteps
bring no distraction from his study


The Hospital is happy to keep him while they look for his family

The Hospital has been most happy to have him

They have given him the finest cosmetic surgery
using the newest techniques

They have given him all the benefit of their recent pharmaceutical researches

It is true
they have taken liberties —
borrowing some organs and samples
after all
they have so carefully nurtured within him this past few years
But in the meantime
they have tried every revival method
and are proud to have succeeded in bringing him quite back to life

They are happy to see him through to this very fine recovery
Happy to return him in excellent shape to his respectable family
should they be located


At the beach

several of the young local girls are showing him their asses

They can think of nothing funnier
and their mounting laughter confuses Moth
They block the sunlight from licking at the plastic filaments of his beach chair

A reprimand is in order:
Leave me

the dead man rasps

Gushing laughter
the girls run away

Did you hear what he said?

Did you?


Moth is caught up in the window factory again
letting out soft wails and peering about with sympathetic moans
— putting his grey shelled fingers against the dusty panes in tiny
shivering caresses

The locals wonder why he moons like this petting the layered surfaces of glass

He sees himself darkly in a dust penned portrait
trapped in transparent sheets of light

He whispers to that face he knew yesterday
asks for its name —
begs it for forgiveness
He knows
that somehow
that injured face is still there
in the light of before times


When a child stopped to stare at him

standing with sway back
a finger in its clean little mouth
spit glistened on its finger and lips and those big round eyeballs
so smooth
glinted a soft water sparkle too appetizing for Moth to resist

He looks at the assault charges this way:
his fate has become muddied since he tried to lick the child’s eyeball
They have sequestered him and the light has so little variance in his tiny room
He has therefore taken to sleeping all day
waking at midnight to feast on the moon


Moth has wandered into the Black Sparrow
where he sways in the doorway
a drum beat having entered him

The beat is the light interrupted at intervals
holding him there
in suspense of each new movement

In the back
a lamp spotlights the pool table
players bobbing pink and green inside and out of it

Moth watches

A few men turn ‘round on their stools
peer toward the scarecrow figure silhouetted in the blinding threshold

It’s that damned dead man again

Moth hovers
rasping in hilarious rhthym from the shards of his single lung
the whole party looking now his way

The players have straighted in order to stare
causing Moth some dismay
for the lamp shines now on perfect felt
and gritty —
a memory —
and he must lay hands on it

Moth’s approach
halt and hurried
does not convey the horror of hands now screaming from his silent networks
Memories of something vaguely amorous make his outstretched hands shiver

And he is oblivious now
to the bursts of laughter which accompany his swimming caresses
This table
feels perfectly like that nightmare mixture of cotton and pins —
the car accident
wedged into his entrails
He vomits


At the Blackbird Bar

the locals have turned on their spinning stools
toward the sunlit threshold
Moth is a black tear in a brilliant yellow canvass

Buried in mouldy darkness
a tented light hangs over the pool table

Moth squinnies; face like a washrag

withered sticks

The knocking colored balls are lit
flat colors
against the green felt

The sleep walking Moth recovers
an illness
once more
of metal and limbs scattered on grass —

enters groping
spidery hands leading him

to touch the pool of green

Moth grabs a ball rolls it into another
chatters his sparse yellow teeth

And there is laughter
this time
the locals buy Moth a beer


Moth has become something of a mascot

It is agreed
he is something to have around

ghastly and comical
Like an iguana losing it’s antique tail with a single clap

The locals like to chat him up
when they can and when he will

He is moody

Outside of town
along a dirt road that leads to the rain forest
he drags his leaden sneakers

The locals like to tell each other what he does there:
eating mud; pressing his ears to damp trees

Moth likes keeping ahead of things
peering through the aching leaves toward the sun within

The locals like to guess at what the doctors know
because amnesia is not enough to explain these mysteries

Moth sleeps now in a smooth white room
with a ceiling fan that breaths years full of brilliant air


His face has given birth to a crispy little polyp
which he holds toward the light
between his knotted fingers:

Bloodied sparkle

His mind convulses around an event
Twinkling grass
red enamel
love, her high heel jutting up straight from wreckage
and the sickening brilliance of metal and leather and blood and flesh
tipped out suddenly
into cruel cornucopia

Moth sobs into his new bandages
and the nurses peddle toward him on their invisible white bicycles


Mary and Anne have received a letter

…we have reason to believe this man is your brother…

Anne shrugs at Mary
No. Not him…

After the unanswered phone calls
the absent holidays
after a visit to the abandoned flat
the calls to her family
the missing persons report

Not, mind YOU that he could care less —
all worried sick—
and now?

After they’d given up
having held memorial services
for him
and for her
both families not knowing

Now this letter:

… despite hospital efforts… diligent care and…







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