Word Moth


by Miriam McIlfatrick

A reply to “Separated by the Wingspan of a Moth” by Pia Ghosh-Roy

Words lie in my lap like promises unmade
until a braille-breath rhythm rises and stirs
a visceral shiver of willow
a tinsel flicker of river
a riff that loosens a voice from its moorings
that divining rod dip that blindsides the body
and primes the mind for unspeakable wonder.
Will my words find the like on their own?

Will they grasp the tulip touch of infant muslin
or the tacking-stitch lilt of cloudburst passion?
Will they hold the strandedness of betrothal silk
or the light-shy memory of shrouding linen?
Will they learn to chastely accept the ecstasy
of the melt of amber in the valley of your throat?
Will they remember not to adorn the perfect arc
of your back as it cradle-charms music to life?
Will they stop picking the lock of the door
to the unfinished attic of obscure joys and sorrows?
Will they find a way of retracing their steps
to a waiting room of imponderable wonderment?
Will they just copy the glamour of the gold persimmon
or the seamless seed-dress of the ruby pomegranate?

Or, cornered and shorn of their sleek warm pelts
will they rediscover what it means to weave
a shirt of nettle in blistering silence –
tender shelter of the astounding word moth?

It flies out regardless, ancestral and sensory
in touch with its cells and cued by moonlight
owning its unnamed days and nights
it knows no nostalgia of origins – only
closure of cocoon and mastery of mimicry
the making of its way and its singular self
in an endless shedding of dazzling wingscale –
that deathless delight
of a precarious icon.


About the Author:

Miriam McIlfatrick-Ksenofontov is a lecturer and freelance literary translator from Northern Ireland who has lived in Estonia since 1991. Her scholarly interests include comparative poetry, cognitive poetics, the oral poetic tradition and the poetics of translation. She translates Estonian poetry primarily for performance at festivals and collaborates with musicians, poets and artists. Her translation of Doris Kareva’s Days of Grace: Selected Poems was published by Bloodaxe in 2018.