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TAPESTRY MOTHS

 

I know a curious moth, that haunts old buildings,

A tapestry moth, I saw it at Hardwick Hall,

‘More glass than wall’ full of great tapestries laddering

And bleaching in the white light from long windows.

I saw this month when inspecting one of the cloth pictures

Of a man offering a basket of fresh fruit through a portal

To a ghost with other baskets of lobsters and pheasants nearby

When I was amazed to see some plumage of one of the birds

Suddenly quiver and fly out of the basket

Leaving a bald patch on the tapestry, breaking up as it flew away.

A claw shifted. The ghost’s nose escaped. I realised

 

It was the tapestry mohts that ate the colours like the light

Limping over the hangings, voracious cameras,

And reproduced across their wings the great scenes they consumed

Carrying the conceptions of artists away to hang in the woods

Or carried off never to be joined again or packed into microscopic eggs

Or to flutter like fragments of old arguments through the unused kitchens

Settling on pans and wishing they could eat the glowing copper

 

The lamb-faced moth with shining amber wool dust-dabbing the pane

Flocks of them shirted with tiny fleece and picture wings

The same humble mask flaming in the candle or on the glass bulb

Scorched unwinking, dust-puff, disassembled; a sudden flash among the hangings

Like a window catching the sun, it is a flock of moths golden from eating

The gold braid of the dress uniforms, it is the rank of the family’s admirals

Taking wing, they rise

Out of horny amphorae, pliable maggots, wingless they champ

The meadows of fresh salad, the green glowing pilasters

Set with flowing pipes and lines like circuits in green jelly

Later they set in blind moulds all whelked and horny

While the moth-soup inside makes itself lamb-faced in

The inner theatre with its fringed curtains, the long-dressed

Moth with new blank wings struggling over tapestry, drenched with its own birth juices

 

Tapestry enters the owls, the pipistrelles, winged tapestry

That flies from the Hall in the night to the street lamps,

The great unpicturing wings of the nightfeeders on moths

Mute their white cinders . . . and a man,

Selecting a melon from his mellow garden under a far hill, eats,

Wakes in the night to a dream of one offering fresh fruit,

Lobsters and pheasants through a green fluted portal to a ghost.

 

copyright © Peter Redgrove

 

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