The Moths

Yanara Friedland


Two burglaries occurred on the street where I lived a few weeks before the moths appeared.

During one of the burglaries, while plasma TV and stereo where lifted from the bungalow, the owner's dog ran onto the street and got hit by a car.

The dog deceased.

The neighborhood became vigilant. Motion sensitive lights were mounted onto house walls, garden gates were shut properly and trees received a trim.

One night, this was a few months after the burglaries the dog's death, I came home and opened the porch door to the wild tarantella of a swarm of moths.

They pursued the light and each other. They seemed to be small versions of bats.

I could not decide whether I found them beautiful or just animal.

The word moth is related to the Old English word for maggot.  They are also close relatives to the butterfly. An ancient maggot butterfly. People who watch moths and butterflies are engaged in butterflying or mothing. The latter has given rise to the word 'mother' to describe those people.

Moths are labeled an invasive species.

They reminded me of the squirrels in my garden, and how you can see their organism breathe through their skin.

The previous day tree climbers had cut down some of the neighbor's large solid oak tree and the branches fell over the fence into my garden.

My neighbors had two children, two girls who would often play the bucket game, sending each other messages in a bucket that was held by a rope and slowly descended into the garden where the other sister received the message and then responded.

The same day the tree climbers had trimmed the oak, my neighbors' Mexican cleaner shook out carpets on the porch.

Dust and falling tree branches met.

My neighbors' were the first ones to act after the burglary and installed a motion sensitive light on the north side of their house. It would take me eight weeks to tell them that the wind kept the lights flashing like a siren onto my wall.

It was a quiet neighborhood and a quiet spring except for the burglaries, which happened in March, when snow kept falling and thawing.

Not all moths are pests. The silkworm, for example, is farmed. In Nepal, I once visited a silkworm farm that was as invested in growing mulberry trees as it was in feeding the larva before it spun itself into a silken cocoon.

It is the larva's salivary glands that produce the silk and provide protection during the pupal state.

If the animal is allowed to survive after spinning the cocoon, it will release enzymes that create a hole in the cocoon. Through which it then emerges as a moth. On the silkworm farm in Nepal, however, the cocoons were boiled to avoid the enzyme-producing hole which damages the silk. The silkworms never survived the heat and were eaten afterwards.

My neighbor's oldest daughter and a girl across the street were close friends. Every day after school they played together in the garden. Sometimes they would let the younger sister play too.

May was hot and the girls all wore their bathing suits. The two older ones looked longingly at the swing in their neighbor's garden, where Hispanic workers were taping off window frames in order to repaint the house.

Both girls bent one of their legs slightly.

The lilac was abundant and grew through the fence.

The night that the moths danced on the porch like a giant bat disintegrating into wings, I lit a candle in my bedroom.

I had been warned of an approaching full moon that was supposed to affect major technical systems.

But the moon that night was oval and distant.

The moon was as ever.

I saw a shadow on the wall; a moth was in my room.

I opened the door to the hallway and turned the hallway lights on.

I could hear the moth razoring the air.

The reality is that the butterfly is a small group that arose within the moths.

The silk industry produces over 130 million kilograms of raw silk each year.

I picked up a piece of clothing and swiped the air.

The moth and I were very close in the candlelight.

I tried to catch it in my hands but realized it had a large, almost mammal like body.

The moth reminded me of the squirrels in the garden. A hybrid of rat and bird.

My neighbor's bedroom light was on. The girls surely asleep and their bathing suits in the laundry.

I wondered how the squirrels felt about the trimmed tree.

When the burglary happened in my neighborhood a few months earlier, I realized that someone had been watching the street.

And the girls playing on the neighbors swing and descending the bucket.

I had been watching the street too.

But the burglar escaped me.

My neighbors had recently bought another tree that would eventually block their garden from my sight.

The sun always sunk in the west, which meant that my room flooded with light each day at around six p.m.

Moths are nocturnal. Other nocturnal species such as bats, owls, and lizards eat them.

On the underside of the wings of the Brasssolinae there are markings, which imitate with great accuracy the eyes of an owl or another large bird. When attacked these butterflies flick their wings and their attackers are intimidated by the flashing eyes.

I wondered how the moths felt about the moon.

The moth and I were in an almost dark room.

It sat on the windowsill and I picked up a book. I did not want to kill the moth.

The book missed the moth and in a momentary change of flight it dispersed while flying straight at my face.

The book missed the moth. In a momentary change of flight the moth dispersed while another flew straight at my face. 

The moth had detached itself from the first one, as if moths were cocoons that could hatch each other from their bodies.

Four wings
Two heads

The second moth flew into my forehead and released an acerbic fluid that ran into my eyebrow.

When I turned around, and switched the light on, the moths were gone.

Squirrels would often chase each other across the electric wiring above the garden.

The telephone poles connective wiring that ran along the street.

When the burglary occurred a few months earlier, my neighbors decided to ask the city council to put up a sign at the bottom of the street saying, Slow Down Children Are Playing Here.

My neighbor's name was either Shannon or Sharon.

The only time I talked to her was when I saw their cat dead on the side of the street, perpendicular to ours, and the girls were handing out flyers with the cat's picture and some text.

I told my neighbor that I was not sure, but that I had seen a cat on the side of the street, yesterday and today.

I went to bed and blew out the candle.

Moths frequently appear to circle artificial lights, although the reason for this behavior remains unknown. Some believe that moths use a technique of celestial navigation called transverse orientation. By maintaining a constant angular relationship to a bright celestial light, such as the moon, they can fly in a straight line.

The mint had been growing savagely all over the garden.

The motion sensitive light was recently adjusted, so that it now flashed very rarely into my bedroom.

When I visited the silkworm farm in Nepal, I had no idea that silk came from worms. The reason I went to the silk farm was because I had gotten sick in a small village and could not leave the village.

I could hear the moths zigzagging the room. They had not really disappeared.

I listened to the moths for a while.

In the mornings, I could usually hear motored machines working my neighbor's and their neighbor's lawn.

The day the tree climbers came, I was surprised to hear them speak in English.

The voices of Hispanic window workers and the American tree climbers met.

A few apple blossoms shined in the vase.

The day the moths came into my room, I heard my neighbor's voice exclaim a "wow" as she entered the garden and saw the trimmed tree.  "They really cut the branches... Can you not tell the difference, guys"?

In bed that night, as I was listening to the moths, I wondered if there was an animal missing from the world.

In the mornings the house was cold even when the sun was up and unveiled.

My neighbor's voice came through the fence.

I wondered how the fence felt about the lilac.

Something was coming to my skin. If it wasn't the moths it was the cobwebs.

I wondered how the cobwebs felt about the moths.

I had a restlessness in my feet.

And in the dark it seemed that the moths were all over.

I turned the light on.

When a moth encounters a much closer artificial light and uses it for navigation, the angle changes noticeably after only a short distance.

The moth instinctively attempts to correct by turning toward the light, causing airborne moths to come plummeting downwards, and resulting in a spiral flight path that gets closer and closer to the light source.

The room was quiet again and I waited.

I moved my hand behind the desk's back.

I was encountered by the motion sensitive light, perhaps, triggered by my own light, or by my movement in the light across the window, the fence and its abundant lilac.

They never caught the burglar.

I shook the sheets and noticed the dust in the corners.

As I write this, I hear my neighbor complaining about the moths.

They are unbelievable.

There is a hole in my bucket.

The girls broke my bucket.

I saw the moth on a piece of black color of a postcard.

Hit it three times with the closest book at hand. Borges' Labyrinths.

The moth came to it after each slap, the wings ripped, black sputters.


Moths mate their backsides plucked into each other.

Four wings
Two heads

The lights in my neighbor's bedroom went out.

Females appear slightly larger in the abdomen due to the bulk of its many eggs. Males can fly for three miles or more in order to reach a female.

The moth stopped twitching.

The other one did not come back.