Poetry Friday: 1927 (The Final Edition—I promise!)

I know, 1927 should have finished, but I haven’t picked up 1928’s novel yet, leaving me in the gap.  Besides that, I’m obsessed with the poetry of a cockroach named archy, and have one last chance to get it out there.  The moth is a strangely poetic subject—you may have read Virginia Woolf’s take on moths, though I personally prefer Annie Dillard’s—and archy (Don Marquis) gives it his best shot in this last poem I’ll give you from 1927, “the lesson of the moth”:

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself



4 comments on “Poetry Friday: 1927 (The Final Edition—I promise!)

  1. Paul Hamann says:

    Get rid of lines 25-40 and you’ve got an awesome poem. As it is, this feels like a preachy near-miss.

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      I’ll agree that it’s too “on the nose”. There’s a worthwhile sentiment there that’s been more successfully explored elsewhere (Dillard’s moth-as-wick is my favorite, personally). I think I’d agree about where to “chop” the poem…the ending works really nicely, I think. Though I do like the phrase “burned up with beauty”, so it’s a shame that has to go.

  2. Ette says:

    I love this poem! it is so fantastic. I just posted it myself, thats how I got linked here somehow.

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      Thanks for the comment, Ette! There are some pieces of the poem that I really love (though, as you can see above, I agree with my friend Paul that I think a bit of editing would improve the piece). Thanks for dropping by — I’ll have to give your blog a look, if you’re posting this kind of poetry!

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