Rosy Maple Moth

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I found this beautiful moth on the road today…

The moth reminded me of a poem I hadn’t thought about in years. I was lurking in my high school library when I stumbled across a dusty old book that probably hadn’t been cracked in decades. It was a collection of “archy and mehitabel” poems, supposedly written by a cockroach named Archy, but actually penned by New York Evening Sun columnist Don Marquis (1878-1937). Archy pounds out his work on Marquis’ typewriter at night after everyone has left the office for the day. He types by diving headfirst into the keys, and because he can’t manage to hold down a shift key and type a letter at the same time, his poems are in lowercase. And Mehitabel? She’s Archy’s friend, an insouciant alley cat who claims to have been Cleopatra in another life and whose philosophy is: “wotthehell wotthehell toujours gai toujours gai.

the lesson of the moth

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

archy

1927

Here’s hoping the moth I found today was burned up in one moment of exquisite beauty.

4 responses »

  1. Thanks for sharing these photos. I’ve heard about these moths before but I’m surprised at how cotton candy pink they are. Also enjoyed the poem. These lines are my favorite:

    “we are like human beings
    used to be before they became
    too civilized to enjoy themselves”

  2. Archie and Mehitobol were my some of my mother’s favorite poems. When she lived in Denmark in the 1940’s she and her girlfriends formed a group they called “toujours gai.” I did not know the name came from this reference. I always thought it was meant ironically, as Denmark post WWII working for the CIA must have been grim.

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