The Saturn and Sphinx Moths of the Upper Midwest

by Nathan Mader

Nathan Mader was born and lives in Regina Saskatchewan. His work has appeared in Grain, The Fiddlehead, and Vallum. He has been a finalist for the Walrus Poetry Prize and has an essay forthcoming in The Literary History of Saskatchewan Vol.3 (Coteau, 2017).

 

 

Let me speak of The Saturn
and Sphinx Moths of the Upper Midwest.

It’s a map-sized Pocket Guide
laminated in a formaldehyde

of plastic that I’ve kept between my
Handbook to the Projectile Points

of Iowa and The Selected Lyrics of Háfiz.
Goes to show that we’re all a bit

edited. Even The Saturn and Sphinx
Moths of the Upper Midwest is

cut to its completeness. The Vashti
sphinx moth flies to the light

bulb over our heads. The Death’s
Head Hawk moth surfaces

in the Silence of the Lambs, alights
on the lips of Jodie Foster.

The Spiny Oakworm. The Honey
Locust. The Virginia Creeper.

That Gothic moth’s an imposter.
The Polyphemus moth has four

eyes yet is named after the Cyclops
Odysseus blindsided by calling

himself “Nobody.” A four-eyed
Cyclops moth is nobody, too.

Saturn moths are not a single species,
but moths swallowed by what

a system accrued. The “eyes” on
the wings of the Io moth are equal

to the widening inner aperture that
asks what kind of insect is prayer.

Close your eye, kid, and stare into Ovid.
Zeus transforms Io into a heifer

to hide her in plain sight. The cow
jumps into the moon like Li Po.

Anonymously carved into Wikipedia’s
temple of light is the maxim: “there

are over 160,000 kinds of moths, many
of which are yet to be described.”

The Abbot’s sphinx. The Achemon.
Multimedia Lepidoptera. The Pink moth

denudes as it detaches from the synaptic
flash that cocoons it, ingesting

the muslin over its origins as Saturn
consumes the Sphinx. I once saw

an empty parking lot outside Fargo
deified by falling snow. I recall

the Upper Midwest as a system
of riddles and gods present

in the fluorescents of gas stations lit
like ashrams in which we might

dissolve our transverse orientation
to the things of this earth.

 


Nathan Mader was born and lives in Regina Saskatchewan. His work has appeared in Grain, The Fiddlehead, and Vallum. He has been a finalist for the Walrus Poetry Prize and has an essay forthcoming in The Literary History of Saskatchewan Vol.3 (Coteau, 2017).

☝ BACK TO TOP