A Rolling Moth Etymology

Sylvia Legris

1 Flight and only flight is a delicately orchestrated

irrational response to a moth.

2 To unpack a fear of moths (mottephobia)

is to open a pandora’s voice box of rumor and legend.

While performing an aria from Handel’s Messiah,

a moth flew into a soprano’s mouth.

“I know that my Redeemer liveth,” she sangeth, and fished the moth out.

3 All breath stops for moths.

To live within moth-spinning windows is to live under pupal arrest.

To become unfettered from the tyranny of flutter

necessitates deft intervention of pickle jar and pluck.

4 Moth-eaten from the 14c.

A nocturnal devouring.

A hankering for knits on hangers.

5 Nits, gnats, an etymon of moth is midge.

A collision of no-see-um and no escapin’.

6 Also see maggot,

the absurdity of flesh,

the fragile feelers.

7 The reciprocal duties of hospitality are not lost on a moth.

Take the populous poplar, a popular host—

the spotted tussock moth caterpillar feasts all season

and where there were leaves leaves lace, a brocade of moonlight.

8 Fall is to summer as pupa is to larva.

Dormancy is the season between winter and willow.

9 Ditto the calendar of moths.

Buck moth after Juno.

Half-wing and full Luna.

10 Moth wings write the fingers with graphite.

Unearthly grease DNAs the moth’s release into night.

Fool’s gold dust-shimmer.

The rust of decaying fabric.

11 The original title of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves was The Moths.

While moth-hunting is best done under a full moon,

the illumination required to write a book of great worth

is inversely proportional to that required to trap a moth.

Sylvia Legris is the author, most recently, of Garden Physic. The Principle of Rapid Peering is forthcoming in 2024.
Originally published:
September 18, 2023


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