Not long ago, I wanted nothing more than for him to pay as much attention to me as he does to moth genitalia. Hiking into remote ridges, rigging the white sheet and black light, sitting outside through the night, face up close to the swaying sheet. Empty vials quickly become flutter-filled, shaking, then still.
“This is my family,” he says, “the ones I study.”
The next morning, a kind of reverse motion: hiking out from remote ridges back to my cabin; opening the vials; gathering the wings, legs, bodies, and antennae that tumble out onto the kitchen table. I write little numbers on little pieces of white paper while he clutches a specimen with tweezers and blows gently down its back. The wings spread. In between my legs tightens.
One pin for the body, one for the label, others if the antennae refuse to lie well. All the moths in a row in a box that will join countless other boxes in his office.
He’s already removed the genitalia and dropped red dye on them, placing the stained parts on a sliver of glass with a label and a slip cover. He stacks them next to the microscope. “These are for closer inspection,” he tells me. “You can tell how moths are related by studying their sex organs.”
I bear witness to an intimacy I cannot claim.
He wants to know about bigger things, the evolution of life, and I might as well be extinct, or in the freezer with the moths he didn’t mount.
Amy‘s poetry and prose have appeared on Terrain.org and in The Pinch, Brevity, River Teeth, the Bellingham Review, and other venues. In August 2017, she served as Artist-in-Residence at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She holds a Master of Science degree and a Master of Fine Arts degree, both from the University of Idaho. Amy currently works in northern California as a writing tutor for college students.
Author Photo by Karin Higgins
Cover Photo from Internet Archive Book Images