THE COLOR OF INEFFABLE
Yesterday on my walk, a Polyphemus moth,
dead. All color drained
but for the great dark eyes on her wings.
How could I not bring her home? She was
bleached perfection, the color of faded silk
or a brittle papyrus on which were written
the now unreadable inks and the cocoon’s mystery.
The expert says she died of starvation,
having used up all the fat
from her salad days. But he can’t explain
her lack of color or why she appeared
in the one spot between sunshine and shade
where I’d be sure to find her.
I keep her on the corner of my desk,
marvel at her six-inch spread, the night-
flying veins bursting like moon rays
from the center post of her body—a wonder,
a week’s worth of wonder, for seven days
is all she had. So says Professor Moth,
and he must know. But I like to think
when her allotted time was up,
she in her hour of certitude put aside
all purples and gold, all buzz of sequin
and flutter and whim, and like a queen
facing the wall of inevitable,
laid the white flag of herself down naked:
elect: the devil’s parchment, the angel’s chalk.
The professor says impossible.
But what does he know about epic queens
or poets in white? And what could he understand
about women and starve?