942: Very Large Moth
942: Very Large Moth
Today’s episode is guest hosted by Shira Erlichman.
I’m Shira Erlichman and this is The Slowdown.
In my twenties, traveling through California, I stayed with my friend Donka. Donka is a farmer, a surfer, a generous & easy soul who lent me their couch. One morning they loaded their truck with surfboards and told me to get in.
I had never surfed. In the water I felt like a guest. Donka bobbed beside me, dispensing advice. Soon they drifted toward a pack of veteran surfers and I was on my own. I dragged my board deeper into the surf, preparing to hop on and explore.
A slick, blue-black head popped out of the water. At first I thought it was an alien. Then, a scuba diver in a jet black hood. Then, a dog. In confused terror, I clumsily tried to hop on my board. Yet, a spark of sanity gripped my shoulders. It’s a sea lion, Shira. You may never get this moment again.
When I faced him, his eyes were curious. My fear dissolved into ecstasy. I was the alien. I was on his planet. Yet, he was not afraid of me. For a minute or a thousand years we gazed into each other. Drenched in his innocent gaze, stripped of persona, I was humbled to the bones. In a snap he ducked back into the abyss and was gone. Stunned, I shouted, “Donka!” but as they paddled over to me I lost all language. “Sea! Lion!” I managed, but it wasn’t enough to convey the spiritual slap of having felt somehow more myself and less of a self in the eyes of this sea God. Donka grinned, “I know! I see them all the time!”
Today’s poem teaches us that you can’t choose your holy moments. The poet, too, is a sudden citizen of bewilderment. When it comes time to express this kinship across species, he finds himself bereft.
Very Large Moth
by Craig Arnold
After D.H.L. Your first thought when the light snaps on and the black wings clatter about the kitchen is a bat the clear part of your mind considers rabies the other part does not consider knows only to startle and cower away from the slap of its wings though it is soon clearly not a bat but a moth and harmless still you are shy of it it clings to the hood of the stove not black but brown its orange eyes sparkle like televisions its leg joints are large enough to count how could you kill it where would you hide the body a creature so solid must have room for a soul and if this is so why not in a creature half its size or half its size again and so on down to the ants clearly it must be saved caught in a shopping bag and rushed to the front door afraid to crush it feeling the plastic rattle loosened into the night air it batters the porch light throwing fitful shadows around the landing That was a really big moth is all you can say to the doorman who has watched your whole performance with a smile the half-compassion and half-horror we feel for the creatures we want not to hurt and prefer not to touch
"Very Large Moth" by Craig Arnold. Used by permission of the poet's estate.