Brendan Grady’s “Moths”

A new poem by alumnus Brendan Grady (poetry, ’12) appears online at the New England Review:

We know the moths circling the porch light,
the dolt among them breaking orbit,
dusty Icarus drawn to his demise.

This isn’t new, but seventeen others
stuck on the wall have turned their wings
against it, like stoics, as if the light isn’t light,

and if they move, it is only a slight flutter,
a twitch of motion, before they still again.
My mind should stop here—but we see

one push off from the wall, flying
erratic, as if whiskey drunk or possessed,
and we know the ones that lap around the light

were once still. Love, I know I could
just flip a switch, that’s not the point.
I count seventeen windows on our street

still lit—hundreds of lights
in our neighborhood, millions in our city,
each one attracts an asteroid belt of moths

flitting like dust motes, caught in the wind.
Of course, when seen from a certain distance.
I really should stop. It’s so cold tonight

when I shut my eyes, I can picture
floating in space—the porch light
becomes the red glare of the sun,

morphing shapes, like reflections
fluttering on an astronaut’s helmet,
or the threshold of light, shadowed

when my father came home late, paused
at my door. He hardly ever entered. If he did,
I’d pretend to be asleep, so he’d feel safe

to kiss me on the forehead, or pick me up,
instead of just saying good night, shutting
the door behind him. Let me tell you,

love, my father was no hell-bent lunatic,
nor Daedalus, just a doctor who kept the appropriate
distance between men, and I was merely a son

who’d blush in his father’s shadow. This isn’t new.
Right now, the body of a moth has become
a shadow in the light bulb. You aren’t here to see it.

You’ve been gone awhile now. I could say
I’ve been a shadow since you left with a man
more like my father. But that would be a lie.

We knew a breach opened between us
like a tiny nick in an astronaut’s suit; we knew
our touch felt like moth wings fluttering on skin.

You’ve been gone for a while. When I think it through,
I haven’t been speaking to you at all. I’ve said love 
but meant him, meaning you, Father. Wasn’t it you

who taught me what it meant to fall?
The force of gravity is constant, the force
of gravity is actually the downward

acceleration the Earth imparts to all bodies,
equally: the child dropped on the bed after kissing
his father on the lips, a moth with burnt wings.


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