On the Wires

Lifted whole cloth from Freespace, where I loved Prof. Sandefeur’s Friday Poetry today.

It’s bizarre but I’ve read this poem before!  In college, when I was studying Descartes’s moth narratives in the “sentience” classes for my Philosophy major (perhaps needless to say, my undergrad has since cut its Phil. dept. completely):

Don Marquis is, alas, little rembered today. He was a newspaper columnist and humorist who wrote a series of poems supposedly authored by a cockroach named Archy, who banged out his work on a typewriter by leaping head first on the keys.

the lesson of the moth (1927)

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of
it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before theybecame
too civilized to enjoy

and before i
could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the
same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry



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