Laughlin, James, 1914-:The Moths [from The Man in the Wall (1993), New Directions]

Remembering [H]Vladimir Nabokov

1            A dark damp night and a sudden hatch
2            of moths has covered the glass of the

3            big window in the living room attract-
4            ed by the light where I sit reading

5            they make a solid curtain of flutter-
6            ing little shapes   they are desperate

7            they are the kind which only lives for
8            one night and they must reach the light

9            there must be thousands of them   there
10          is nothing remarkable in this invasion

11          no metaphor for the poet to play with
12          but now again it is a night some forty

13          years ago   the summer when Volya came
14          to hunt lepidoptera at the mountain

15          lodge in Utah   he had turned the inside
16          lights against the picture window and

17          the outside was swarming with moths
18          he put on a miner's headlamp and stood

19          on a stepladder on the terrace plucking
20          the moths into a cyanide jar with his

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21          tweezers   next morning when he examin-
22          ed the bodies with a jeweler's ocular

23          he was ecstatic   eleven of the male
24          moths were the variants (detectable by

25          a mutation in the genitalia) which were
26          first recorded by the French lepidopter-

27          ologist D'Imbert when he visited the
28          Wasatch range in 1896   later Volya told

29          me that he traded his duplicates with
30          collectors in Europe for varieties from

31          Manchuria & Tibet that he had never seen.