After September I stopped killing the soft moths that fluttered silently through the house. They could have my sweaters, they could lay their eggs in my wool shirts, even the blue sweater John liked best. There were brown smears on the wall from moths I’d crushed on their way to the light that dazzled and drew them. I left the stains to remind myself that they had lived once like me, were hungry and fed at the light, seeking warmth.
This morning I find one dead in my cup, wings folded shut as if in prayer. I don’t know where they come from, these moths. At night as I read their soft shadows move across the sour yellow light of a dim lamp, a crooked lampshade, a pile of mail torn open and forgotten.
I remember stagnant August, a hot tent and ants. We’d camped near Timothy Meadows in the Chiwaukum Mountains under a sky heavy with rain to fall, the ponderosa pines scarcely breathing. The grass held still like grass in a painting. We pitched our tents in a hurry to beat the rain – we could smell it coming. It smelled like an old road, it felt like something was going to happen.
We finished as the first quarter-sized drops of rain fell, as the trees shuddered like dancers raising their arms. We ran to our tents and I discovered I’d pitched the tent on an ant hill. Hundreds of ants were going about their business on the orange fabric of the Eureka – big, fat black ants with red heads, following the unwritten code of their genetic memory, onward in a blind path that did not deviate for such a minor obstacle as a wedge of orange fabric in the grass but simply crossed over it in their stubborn faith they would find what they sought, what pulled them through the grass but I did not think of that as I crushed them, killing as many as I could until my hands were covered with their substance like a thick jam, until I was sickened at this mindless genocide and I stopped as violently as I started, gently brushed the rest of them into the grass and crawled inside the tent, wanting to weep for the sudden sharp grief that made my throat ache with unshed tears as I lie in the tent waiting for rain.
(From a creative writing class, early 1990s)