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).