Millers’ Crossing

Dillard and Woolf waxed elegiac
over its immolation in a candle’s
flame—overcome, I imagine, by the
surrealism of the juxtaposition:

a single, innocuous wick lit to
guide the path of the writer’s words
morphs into a luminous siren
calling a foundering craft to its
swift and fiery end.

But for me, a writer with no
Candle at all to play muse
to me and a moth, these millers
do nothing but wreak havoc
at midnight with my peace,

so that, at last, I throw back
the sheets and flip on the lamp
—drab derivative of that swankier
icon of days when writers took
their craft seriously, for god’s sake,
and to hell with their eyesight.

This 60-watt presence might
stage no awe-inducing
funeral pyre—more’s the pity.
But at least it silences what,
in the last hopeless minutes before
my surrender to it, had grown to
my ears into an unspeakably eerie
cacophony of milleresque good cheer.

Several had congregated between the
slats of the metal blinds while others
reclined roguishly against the glass itself,
and the sound they made—delighted, it
would seem, by the serendipity of this
late-May confluence in my window dressings
—was like a dozen tinny old throats
clearing in syncopation or a clutch
of crones whose creaky discourse
chirrups and clacks as from a homey
kitchen table just down the stairs.

So is it any wonder at all,
Virginia? Annie?
that this sublunary racket was
not to be borne?

It could be the lateness of the hour
or the grievance I harbor
at the galling knowledge that
my night, my home,
my sweet oblivion
have been forfeited to these
creepy, unwelcome, downright
dirty little visitors—

But still, I can’t help but wonder
now if those hapless little blunderers
in your moth-mad sleepless nights, my
insomniac heroines, might not have
had a bit of help into your candles’
cleansing, silencing, finalizing flames.