issue 32 poetry

Abbreviated Button Slug Moth

by L Favicchia

Color photo of a dilapidated white, wooden, open-air shack surrounded in weeds by the water. Hand-painted in black on the side and front are “Bait Shack” and “BAIT Live Minnows.”
Chincoteague Bait Shack by Willy Conley

Abbreviated Button Slug Moth

I learned young that some bodies can be killed,
that there’s an important difference
between slugs and caterpillars—the cold
wet body of one curled in the Tootsie Roll leaves
that gathered beneath my mother’s bushes
next to the lamb’s ears she hated so much—
too lamb, or not lamb enough.

I was taught to hate bodies
like that, to recoil my hand
from the damp underbellies of things.

Mornings that began with my mother
cleaning the flower beds gloveless, knuckles
grazing something soft and alien
ended in pillars of salt

as she anxiously rained it down
on them, unrecognizable
and impossibly small beneath.

I thought I learned this shriveled death
correctly, that a body by all accounts
the same should die,
that a caterpillar crushed
was its most useful form

but my mother viewed me with horror,
the green mess I’d made,
sneaker stained in brilliant viscera
not like mine

the beautiful and painterly shame
smeared and open against white,
crawling up the sides
and I think I cried,

that monstrous feeling that taught me
only some bodies are okay to dismantle—
the ones we (she) don’t (doesn’t) like to look at—
mine when I got older.

So I wonder where she’d place you
and your green, egg-like body, red spot bleeding
slowly up your back as you grow. Are you forgiven
because you eat the leaves of apple, cherry, plumb
and not the dead-damp leaf litter rotting
in dark places where we (she) don’t (doesn’t)
like to put our naked hands?

Or are you okay to crush
because your legs are indiscernible, because you are
unsegmented, have no easily definable face?

Is that why, emerging from your cocoon
you keep your abdomen raised
above your wings, poised to feign a sting
or to try to draw definitive lines
for anyone looking at you with their eyes?

L Favicchia is a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at the University of Kansas and is the editor-in-chief of LandLocked. Their first full-length collection of poetry is forthcoming from The Main Street Rag, and their work has been published or is forthcoming in Post Road, The Normal School, Okay Donkey, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry.

Willy Conley is a photographer/writer whose work appears in the books Photographic Memories, Plays of Our Own, The World of White Water, Listening Through the Bone, The Deaf Heart, No Walls of Stone, Visual-Gestural Communication, and Deaf World. He is a retired professor of theatre arts at Gallaudet University in D.C.