Stuart Greenhouse


When we came back to my mother’s

house, the year my father left and I


sickened almost to death, the moths

in the kitchen thickened in their numbers


and gathered around what we put in our mouths

to nourish us; and I could barely eat, my stomach


was a swamp, a sluggish no-flow, but the moths

gathered at my hands and swarmed, I swear,


to protect their portion when I tried, and I was

weak enough to be scared, could feel the dust


from their wings settle in my throat like the first earth

tossed down on me by my wife, and then my parents,


god forbid together, one at a time. My brother came,

and as an act of charity withheld


his complaints that we kept house like animals, and cleaned

out the pantry of cereal, dried fruit, whatever


wasn’t stored in glass or metal, and then left.

The moths grew larger. By Spring’s end, we’d moved


everything, even the tuna, into a stand-alone freezer

and for a week I thought the moths were finished, they flew


at the windows, upstairs in our bedrooms, desperate-seeming,

but as the weeks went, they only grew larger, and their numbers thickened,


and I grew weak still, though roused by memory, one day,

determined to act, I struggled through my stiff bones


to my unused shelves of books, where the moths still fed,

their probosci stretched across the stranger boundaries


to the words like food.