The light was dark, so I twisted a moth
between my fingers, and its wings
fell like shreds of paper. A pulp
lay underneath: dense, beating,
unmistakably the heart. It gushed so heavy
I thought it was sobbing, but it was
only drawing one last gust of breath,
chambers swelling and quieting
above the warm heft of my thumb.
The summer was humid and thick,
thousands of moths congregating
under the belly of a lamppost. In streets
and bars, men played Mahjong
or smoked until the room curled gray.
Their children slept upstairs,
cocoons among rolls of blankets.
I always wondered if they’d grow
to be butterflies, vast and tall, dribbling
hoops or masquerading down
blonde halls grinning and gold.
But for now, the cocoon is a house,
a series of nesting dolls, one
only breaking into another. The adults
spew cards from their fingers,
and Mandarin rolls from their tongues
like a toy sword: playful,
sparring. The room bubbles shining,
laughter a roaring brook
tremoring through this low part
of the valley, and they collapse
breathless against their seats.
Yet tomorrow is a new world,
and they’ll wake with heads low,
flowers sunken with dew. A vein
of football and the office
water cooler and thousands of small
unheard things rushing through,
refusing the tongue. Some will fall
silent and meek, eclipsing
themselves into a small night, enough
for one, an eyeball of light
rolling its own dance until dawn.
Thousands of songs and phrases
from the motherland breaking loud,
a terrain of memory sprouting
within an ashen, steeled face. A butterfly
of the dusk and dust.
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