I’m partial to Jo Pitkin’s “Luna Moths” for several reasons. It describes an animal visitation experience not unrelated to my own “My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse.” And it features a creature I’d nominate as the most beautiful I’ve seen. Before leaving Manhattan for a Catskills log cabin in 1996, I didn’t know they existed. Then, once a summer or so, one would thump on the window loud as a bomb compared to the dozens of smaller moths crowding for lamplight. I’d rush out with my flashlight to inspect this majestic green kite up close. When my former mother-in-law died later in 1990s, I gave a mounted luna moth to her granddaughter as a gift representative of a rare spirit. Now I haven’t seen one in five years, not since an overcast June morning when, on a backpack across the Presidential Range, Roger Wall and I left the Lakes of the Clouds hut, where we’d spent the night, to climb Mount Monroe over 5,000 feet tall. There on the gravelly trail far above tree line we came upon a pair of luna moths that lay motionless. We wondered why they had flown all the way up here from the forests far down in the ravines. Had they gotten caught in an updraft? Or did they intend to finish their lives on the highest of heights? I still wonder. Luna moths are remarkable creatures. May they never seem ordinary.
On the day I realize my father
might be ill, two luna moths appear
like lime-green handprints stuccoed
on the white walls of my office studio.
This husband and wife come to me
from the boughs of my black walnut tree.
While their spread wings cure, eight
eyespots fix on my clumsy, worried haste.
Because the moths only live to mate,
they do not have mouths. They do not eat.
Flying at night, the moonly moths live
for a week. This is all the span they have.
Now, fading by day like scraps of fabric,
the pair rests. Their feathery antennae tick
lightly in June gusts. At twilight, a sheer
single hand almost waves at me as it flutters
across the pale gold disk fobbed firmly,
like a pocket watch, to the deep blue sky.
“Luna Moths” appears in Little Star, a prestigious new journal. Way to go, Jo!
(This poem is copyrighted by Jo Pitkin and used with her permission.)