imagesA wonderful friend just knew I’d love this collection of poems. She rescued “Good Poems for Hard Times – Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor” (chosen for his readings on public radio’s The Writer’s Almanac) from the discard bin at her community library. And the very best part – she hand delivered it this week to our semi-regular writing retreat. Thank you again, Ruth!

So … a random selection, the lesson of the moth by Don Marquis at Page 111. After you’ve read this poem, I’d love to hear what you think.


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

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 they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

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 himself

Publisher: Viking (now owned by Penguin Random House)
ISBN: 0-670-03436-3

Other “Off the Shelf” Selections.