In the depths of the Soviet winter, in the ponderous cold
Of Siberia, a boy cups an abandoned moth in his hands,
Born – to die a few hours old –
Into a false firewood springtime. Its delicate wings
Are only an affront to the divine benevolence; he understands
Nothing; his hands, like an insect coffin, bear the stings
Of the nails themselves; like a dry cocoon, absently,
They drift to the shack wall, and the fingers fan,
In unison, a camouflaged figure in the pinewood pantry.
This tender sign... a tenderness snuffed out.
This heavy icon, then... true mimic of an action?
Or only the swollen, distorted wings of a parasite?
Or only the screech of broken chalk on slate?
Droning brittle wings, poets take their stations
At the edge of the cliff – their noise intuitive, innate...
The butterfly is gone. Its form was here, immaculate;
The hands tracing its flight, aimless, serpentine,
Mimic its undetermined motion – late, late –
Since that double-woven fountain, afloat with indirection,
Surging, sparkling, translucent, seeks its mate
In a signal heaven – a camouflage beyond dissection.
(the poem ("Joseph Brodsky") was published on the op-ed page of the Providence Journal not long after it was written. Curiously, WB Yeats wrote & published a short series of articles for the same paper, in the 1890s. I think they were about aspects of Irish culture and their offshoots in America.)