Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 12 • Winter 2004 • Featured Writer • Poetry

Moth, Mouth, Mother

Wayne Johns

Understand, it was late and I'd been drinking,
but I thought my mother came to me again

last night, in the garden, a moth. Furred red legs,
fine white hairs tracing the thin wings.

It crawled down my arm, tapping out
its silent morse. Difficult to keep my hand

from brushing the thing away.
Having been touched

roughly for so long, I've grown
unaccustomed to gentleness.

It tickled across my face, in my hair,
the way she would scratch my scalp

so softly, for hours, inside the stuttering
blue light of late night television, the stupor

of pills she downed to soothe her
frazzled nerves. Mouthless,

it hunts a spot to lay its eggs, something
to sustain the ravenous larvae. I shiver

when it thrums in my ear, can't keep myself
from scratching. It won't be coming back,

though the sound of water from the filter
in the pond returns. Even with a full moon

you can't see the swollen goldfish that have grown
so used to people they swim to the edge

when someone approaches, mouths unsettling
the surface for the pellets. And this is how we get used

to being fed -- a shadow moves over us
and even when it's passed, we sense,

broken through the crib's slats, the presence
and the absence that feeds, and feeds.

Wayne Johns

Wayne Johns's poems have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The Cortland Review, Image, The James White Review, Meridian, and Ploughshares, among others. His work has appeared in several anthologies, including American Diaspora (University of Iowa Press) and This New Breed: Gents, Bad Boys & Barbarians 2 (Windstorm). He received a Reader's Choice Award from Prairie Schooner, an Editor's Choice Award from Mid-American Review, and the first annual Frank O'Hara Award for his chapbook "An Invisible Veil Between Us" (Thorngate Road).

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