Some Things You Know Exactly
without being there.
A man was scared at a party, not by
strangers, not by the professors
who didn’t care to say hello,
but by a moth, which appeared
too large to his drunken, unfocused eyes.
They were on the porch, smoking, because,
after names and where-froms, politeness
seemed dull as the cheap beers
they had emptied.
A light bulb somewhere above them,
or so I was told.
Fucking moth, he said, fucking moth.
Always that kind of language, hung up
on a word or two, insisting on repetition
the way a frightened child curls underneath
his blankets, crying, Mother, mother.
It got quiet when he tried to kill the moth
with his cigarette
and failed once too many times.
There was amusement at first, then encouragement,
loss of interest, then silence, and finally
people waited for
It’s okay, man, let the thing live.
I was told he switched the light off, but not why.
The porch now naked in what little moonlight
there was. The people quieted down
without meaning to.
Maybe he thought the moth
would fly into the tip of his still-burning cigarette.
Maybe he kept stabbing the night air, aiming
at the faintest buzzes he heard.
Someone may have thought, That’s a man
writing a word—but which one?—in darkness.