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For the Linden Moth


Here comes a noon dream through the eyelids
Bearing out of the sun a deep wood
Where tens, where thousands of small creatures
Are hanged by the neck to await
Their wings. From every hardwood limb,
Let down on invisible threads

As if in sacks, they struggle, contending with
Themselves, and sentenced justly
To writhe until glorified.
In sun-sleep I hear them chewing,

My swarmed-over leaf-lids riddled
With irreparable hotpoints like stars.

If I am asked upon waking
If there is a sound at the heart
Of the forest if no one hears it,
I say yes, it is like the gnawing

Of the larvae of the linden moth
Destroying the hickory leaves.

Struggling to change in midair,
On their monofilament threads,
To their other and better selves.
I say, too—being unsilenceable

Upon the subject—that hanged men die
Of hunger, not able to eat

The leaves of the gallows tree,
Writhing, waiting for wings
On which to soar up around
That blasted and emptied trunk,
Sun-dreaming that they have swallowed
Whole blazing-green forests alive

To ascend in a cloud of night-moths
Whose jaws resurrection has stopped,
Who leave their silken ropes slipped,
Unstrung on the let-in air

Wherethrough wings for all creatures have come
Too late and just in time.

                                                1964


James Dickey

The Complete Poems of James Dickey
University of South Carolina Press


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