Vladimir Nabokov

Sonnet Nabokov: Hummingbird Moths

Near the end of June all the colors collapsed

At once, the lilac’s purple bleeding to gray

Beneath a moist, young moon. A low buzz passed

Overhead, a streak in the dying light of day.

Keen with desire, I followed that telltale song.

Olive and pink, it hovered in the bower,

Vibrating its halo, and dipped its long tongue,

Volute and voluptuous, into a flower.

Or later, in autumn, when there came a freeze,

Killing my mother’s flowers all at once,

One could sugar for moths by painting the trees

Black with molasses, slathered across their trunks.

Ablaze in the light of my lantern, they would feed,

Not knowing how their hunger fed my need.


Matthew Roth

First published in Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction, and Essays