Jalina Mhyana

The Lepidopterist

I cracked the arthritic spine
and examined it,
my fingers clumsy coroners
knuckle-deep in the book’s crumbling midsection.

Anatomical illustrations:
lungs, orb of the eye, corpus colossum.

Page 306: a drawing of a chalk-white moth,
its wings pressed flat between drawn
renderings of the skull’s various plates.

The moth: sphenoid; a bone in the human skull,
its fissures a pivot of movement behind our eyes,
its flexing our blinking.

Calcified mid-flight, wings spanning
temple to temple, it’s the pulse we feel
when we rub there, flapping.

Next page: entire cranium,
disassembled, separate plates hovering.
A bone-puzzle the artist has disjoined
and won’t fuse again until page 308.

The moth like a woman’s pelvic cradle
around which orbits a constellation
of ethmoid, parietal, and temporal bone.

If this universe contracted
each bone interlocking at the fissures
the sphenoid would be flightless, bound.

While sketching the moth with his right hand,
the artist holds a sphenoid in his left.
In his own skull, a third moth:
the optic nerve snaking through it
en route to his eyes and below them, his sketch.

Nabokov collected butterflies and moths
pinned them in frames
pinned his words to the page;
Humbert tracking a girl
her legs opening and closing, flapping,

his thoughts taking flight
to the sanctuary of Mexico
where small creatures hide in jumping beans,
eat their softmeats, then fly away.

I imagine sphenoid moths entering
human heads at birth,
when fontanels are still wide mouths
sucking souls into the body.

Our minds a feast of senses;
ecstasy of sexual union,
eyes back-rolling, a glimpse of wing.

When the spinning of our thoughts slows
and cools they’ll seek another
source of heat,

emerging from our slackened mouths
toward the nearest pinpoint of flame.


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