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Love Song to a Moth

Claude Willan

If to lay on my hands were to confer
death, I’d go to the British Museum
caress the mummies and the sentinel
lions & let them get some rest.

I wore a black tie that he gave me one year
every day, until the silk was queasy and frayed.
“Like everyone who’s had a bellyful,
he wants more!” I couldn’t think what to mourn

and that was ok. Going to the BM
would be damage limitation, but not
the shining deus ex machina
they are expecting, my absolving hands.

My neighbour has died and the birds still come to his feeders.
No-one fills them now and no-one comes to his house
except to run a yard sale and that’s how we knew he was dead.

If you’ve ever wanted to swim
in aspic this is your chance.
Put your faith in natural metaphors
that way you’ll subtend to something living.

If pity settled over every head
that begged it, over all the living and the dead,
soft as fresh snow cupped in a new flower,
the colour of a moon and with dusty wings—