Moth and Mouth

by J. P. Dancing Bear

(Starting with a line by Paul Guest)

if I may invoke the tongue of a corseted age
I will put down my quills and blot the black
ink dry and try not to think of myopic men
quoting us like history.  Who will care anyway
if I loved your words as if they were lips
or each fluttered out into my room

on ornate moths who found the nearest
threadworn hem in which to hide their eggs.
                                  I cannot see them. Perhaps it is still
too dark.  But I
can hear them skittering against the cotton
lining of my coat.  Great beasts that with the shine
of their decoy eyes, make my own well with awe.

Some living thing, finding shelter within my personal
shelters, the very armor I assemble
                                                                    in the stumble night
mornings.  A brush on the skin to raise
gooseflesh in the nip of fall cold.  What does
it mean?  My routine interrupted by moth dust
and the smell of something old barely holding on.
                                                    I knew you were gone,
all of your remains no more
than a sooty ink on a yellowed page, the lost tongue,
the corseted age, goes unspoken for years
—an ebon forgetfulness—
heavier than autumnal dust but lighter than snow,

the warm blanket with its eaten holes,
forgive me if I miss a thou or an O,
I am embarrassed that I have to follow my finger
                                              across the Rubicon of your words
to fill the room with sounds that should last
long after I am gone.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 11

J. P. Dancing Bear’s most recent collections of poetry are Inner Cities of Gulls (2010) and Conflicted Light (2008) both by SalmonPoetry. His poems have been published in Shenandoah, New Orleans Review, DIAGRAM, Mississippi Review, Verse Daily and many others. He is the editor of the American Poetry Journal and Dream Horse Press and the host of Out of Our Minds, a weekly poetry program on public radio station KKUP.

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