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Excerpt from A Language Older Than Words

Moth (p. 190)

From chapter "Insatiability"

It is night. I sit in front of the computer, typing. The lamp—a halogen bulb atop a long pole, with an inverted bowl beneath to reflect light toward the ceiling—is on. The center of the bowl is semi-clear plastic, through which I see the husks of moths fatally attracted by the bulb. I try to keep the lamp off when bugs are in the room, and if I see one spiral toward the light I extinguish it. But I’m usually too late, and I hear the flutter of wings until all is still. The smell of burnt moth floats down.

No wings flutter against the plastic housing now. I look outside, to see a small moth beating itself against the window, trying to get in. All night they try to fly in one direction, and during the day they try to fly out the other. It breaks my heart to see tiny wasps and black bees trying to find their way home, held back by a barrier they neither see nor understand. Plastic makes it worse. A few of my windows have clear plastic taped over them to decrease heat loss during the winter. Over the years the plastic has developed holes, too small for a finger but large enough for an insect. In they go, and it is nearly impossible for them to find their way out. I sometimes try to lead them, but that is maddening: they move toward the hole, then slip past the paper I’m using to guide them, and retreat back to the plastic, back to where they will soon die alone, of hunger, of thirst. Even to the end, I don’t think they understand.