Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

My old friend and former decompositionalist compatriot, Penny Perkins, posted a gorgeous picture of a moth on Facebook today, which she misidentified as an “Endangered Emperor Moth.”

I recognized her mistake right away. The moth was, in fact, a Luna moth (Actias luna) and not Saturnia pavonia.

I noted this on her post in the comments section and also the fact that neither moth is endangered. She thanked me and then asked if, perchance, I had any poems about moths. I did or do.

(At least, I thought it was about moths. I’m never sure anymore what I was writing about when I wrote a poem!)

Here is my poem “Summer Love”:

The female cecropia moth,

Hyalophora cecropia, emerges

As in a stop-action film: swollen

Abdomen shrinking while wings

Rise, fill, and form.  Pheromones

Kick in, attracting a male from miles away.

They couple quickly—how easy love can be.

Linked like this, at terminus,

They are most vulnerable to predators.

They will stay this way, available

To each other, for hours—

Then vanish as memory fades.

 

–Scott Edward Anderson

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Raven Mandala II by Nathalie Parenteau

I lived in Alaska sixteen years ago, when my oldest son Jasper was born.

During his first month he had trouble sleeping, as babies often do, and most nights found me walking with him in my arms trying to get him back to sleep.

While walking I would softly sing to him and recite poems and, occasionally, I would whisper a poem I was working on at the time.

One of these poems was “An ‘Unkindness’ of Ravens,” which was filled with direct observations of ravens — an almost constant presence in town and, along with polar bears, a kind of totem in my life since I first saw them as a boy in Maine.

The poem started forming one night when, after putting my son back in his crib, I couldn’t get back to sleep.

Looking out the window, I noticed ravens gathering in the tall trees behind the house. I was intrigued as their numbers grew and the poem began to unfold in my mind.

Many of the images in the poem came from ravens I observed out my office window in the old Alaska Railroad Depot building by Ship Creek below downtown Anchorage.

I always liked this poem, perhaps because of its association with the birth of my first child and what it said about the strangeness and newness of my life at the time: a new father and new to Alaska; both uncharted territories.

As with many things, my perseverance paid off and, fourteen years after it was written, the poem found a home in a journal called Abyss & Apex.

Here is my poem, “An ‘Unkindness’ of Ravens”:

 

To fall asleep at night, I count ravens

from my bedroom window.

They gather in the spruce trees

at the edge of the woods,

as snow gathers dusk on its surface.

By midnight, thirty or forty

have gathered there in the oily dark.

 

As a group, they are called “an unkindness,”

but they are polite

and helpful to each other,

share their successes and failures

pursue joy and embrace their strength

in numbers, which is more than we can say.

 

Plummeting downhill, they launch into air,

as if snowboarding; flipping and spinning

— hell-bent teenagers on a half-pipe.

In more sober moments, they tell each other

where to look for food, when danger is near,

and where the good garbage is.  They discuss

variable wind speeds or compare moose meat

found in the woods with that of roadside kills.

 

They can be graceful on the wing — Naiads

of the air — or clumsy and indelicate,

half-eaten bagels dangling from black beaks.

Dusk comes later and later these evenings,

and morning arrives sooner, winter almost over.

Come Easter, the ravens will be gone.

Ravens prefer dead things remain dead.

 

–Scott Edward Anderson