NABOKV-L post 0007319, Fri, 27 Dec 2002 16:03:31 -0800

James Laughlin poem on VN

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

Remembering 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

[Page 91]

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.