Moth Chronicle

The Order Lepidoptera predates
The Greek and Roman gods: the Moth Lord, we
Assume, had fewer costume changes, itched 
His arms as if possessed (thus "Lepido-",

The stuck-up Greek for "scale"), and worked with tools
So small that all those idle godly hunts 
Would steer Diana clear of any moth,
No matter if it spelled "HUBRIS!" with wings.

Why should a modern-day Diane, then, find
A mothly quarry hiding on each branch, 
Or rising from a pile of leaves, or stiff
In death in all her laboratory dreams?

It is not pride, but life itself, that beats
A small Darwinian epic in the loss
Of heat, the gain of height, in every stroke
Of furry wings.
                This is Di's Mothiad.


The Lepidopteranodon of old
Put six feet to the metal (calories,
And life, were cheaper then) and flapped about
Like some imperial fanning-slave gone mad.

This profligate expenditure, we think,
Today must seem like Howard Hughes' "Spruce Moth"
To those minute economies of flight
That feel life's loss as they evade a bat.

Yet pupa, luna-moth, and butterfly;
Behemoth, and the Lesser-Bellied Jack-
o-Lantern (partner to the orange bulb):
Are any of their beats or wriggles less

Extravagant a claim on life--to scale--
Than salmon-runs, or work-evading nights
Spent wrapped in passions that would fuel a year
Of nine-to-fives?
                  The energy in moths

Does not have names--there is no moth amor,
Regret, or rage, for all that we ascribe
Their dun or greeny scales to energies
That we have differentiated thus.

But insect lives exist among our own;
Though we can only see them in the lens
Of our barbaric and/or proper codes,
Our energies are shared: so, even now,

The e-moth (energy itself) clamps on 
Its silvery legs below the mandibles
Of data packets, slurping on the bits
That fall into the ether between ports.


If all these human, mothly, living breaths
Inspire anything, it should be praise:
The spans of Diane's tiny calipers
Have measured out no less a poem than those

Which measure meter's feet, or rhyme, and not 
The sounds of small wings flapping overhead.
The Lepidoptrathon Di sings is also run--
Or flown--along the roads we also tread.

December 1997

Copyright 2012, Joshua S. Jacobs

2 thoughts on “Moth Chronicle

  1. My favorite part of “Moth Chronicle” is this:

    The Lepidopteranodon of old
    Put six feet to the metal (calories
    And life) were cheaper then, and flapped about
    Like some imperial fanning-slave gone mad”

    I just love saying these lines to myself. Especially “Lepidopteranodon”. I’m not sure a non-scientist can appreciate how funny that is. It kills me.

    While we’re at it, Josh, let us not forget your moth haiku:

    As wings in butter
    Fly with slower majesty
    So too the fat moth
    – JS Jacobs

    Not even archy the cockroach can rival your moth poems.

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