Admonition


Video link (RSS subscribers must click through)

There’s also an accompanying image at my photoblog. I’m not sure what the species is here, nor why they’re attracted to this bucket in which brushes covered with latex house paint have been cleaned out. If anyone can enlighten me on either score, please leave a comment.

This was shot with my regular digital camera (in the heat of the moment I forgot I had a camcorder), then speeded up to about twice the actual speed. I extracted, cleaned up, and selected a portion of the audio track — annual cicadas in full whine — to combine with my recitation. I dashed off the poem under the influence of alcohol for authenticity’s sake. Here it is, for the benefit of those on dial-up:

This is no moon, my poet friends.

Those are no crickets.

That cloying scent doesn’t come from a flower.

Whatever you’re trying to quench, it isn’t thirst.

18 Comments


  1. oh my. this is eerie. haunting. i know it’s just moths in a bucket of paint water, but the way they are slowly agitating…round and round. it’s as if nature is sending a message that i can’t decipher.

    of course, this brings to mind the feeling of being singled out when you see an animal up close (the rabid fox discussion). this could be just a bucket of moths. or just a cigar.

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    1. I was eerie; I’m glad that came through. Apparently the slightest breeze translates into a circular motion of the liquid in the bucket.

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      1. “I was eerie”—what, you’re speaking Jamaican patois now?

        Great video and poem. I shudder to think how something like this would have had no outlet in the dark days before the internet.

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  2. Yes, it’s a very mysterious scene. I’ve noticed moths attracted to paint wash water before, so perhaps the scent attracts them. What’s neat is how the moving image works with the strange background sounds, and then your spoken words – and the way the moths are slowly moving into daisy chains. How strange – almost as though they are animated by some power.

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    1. What, no moth I.D., Bev? :) I’m glad this works for you. The idea of holding the words till the end is definitely a trick I picked up from some of the videos I’ve uncovered for Moving Poems.

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  3. Just guessing, but maybe the paint contains UV brighteners or something similar, so it appears to the moths as a light source?

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    1. That’s an interesting suggestion. I should mention that another moth of the same species fluttered in while I was watching, but appeared only to drink — and didn’t get trapped.

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  4. I like how the shadow passes over the moths/water, as if a moon were there (which we are told is untrue). I like how the poem mentions crickets (which we can’t hear) and the scent (which we can’t taste). So there’s a lot of “negativa” not’s in this Via Negativa poem! I love the moths — Lawrence Ferlinghetti said “Poems like moths press against the window trying to reach the light.” (Curiously, I just put “fox’s rabid pacing” in my most recent RWP poem, but have since considerably revised the poem, including that phrase!

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    1. Hi Therese – Glad you like the shadows. I thought about adjusting the color balance, but decided that the switch between warm and cold tones as the sun goes in and out of the clouds added to the effect.

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  5. What most intrigues me (of a host of intrigues) is the vision of a moth dead in a dead moon, wings flat & still, even though they float in an orbit’s breese. Do they flutter against the viscous paint but then are trapped, first touch?

    I love the pacing of the film, the sounds that ebbs & flows, the moths, dead yet alive. The pointed “statement-question” to “the poet!”

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    1. Deb, I don’t know how the entrapment works. The one that fluttered in while I was watching got away again.

      Thanks for the kind words. I missed this comment when you left it the other day.

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  6. eerie, yes. and hanging onto that tone throughout the video makes the last line have a different feeling than it may otherwise have:

    “Whatever you’re trying to quench, it isn’t thirst.”

    the line is wonderful and mysterious on its own, but the piece gives it that extra something ominous — which i think is just right!

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    1. Thanks. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but the ominous effect wasn’t necessrily intended – though I like that it came out that way. I was thinking of the story about the ancient Chinese poet who drowned when he tried to embrace the moon’s reflection in the water.

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  7. I love words and photographs, but have been been slow to embrace the video/word projects. But hot damn: this is a piece of art. I would devote a wall to play this.

    It floated through a dream last night.

    Every aspect coheres: the cicadas, jerky changes in light, chemical luminosity, pail-shadow as a second, crescent moon, and the unaccountable, freighted agitation of the moths. All is distorted, but ordered to a secret cadence, an inevitable pattern that you will never recognize until it is too late.

    Hint: it isn’t thirst.

    This distills everything that disturbs and fascinates in Japanese horror films, including the corruption of childhood per Bev and her great observation of daisy-chains.

    Letting the scene marinate before the voice-over absolutely magnifies the power.

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    1. Well, if this piece helped convince you of the value of video poetry, I am doubly honored. I think my low skill-level was definitely working in my favor here, kind of like a like a three-chord punk band with cheap-ass amps.

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  8. For all my harping about craftsmanship, I have to admit these kind of spontaneous – under the influence – lyrics can be so satisfying! Cool!

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    1. I am honored that you think so. Thanks. Of course, one could also argue that I’m only able to write decent poems off the cuff because of my tens of thousands of hours of attention to craft.

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