For years I'd kept a postcard of a tropical hieroglyph moth bought at the Natural History Museum in London. It gave me a particular feeling, those hieroglyph colours on its white furry wings:
As I was writing my last collection The Treekeeper's Tale and had already written two "moth" poems, 'Atlas Moth' and 'Moon Moths (in the Day Room)', I thought surely it's time for me to write that hieroglyph moth, so I did. The poem for me has some of the feeling I associate with the visual image, the colour language on those snow-wings, and the meaning is meant to be quite open-ended, though it makes me think of how I learnt English when I was seven, the newness of the language and the country (mid-Wales) I was having to adapt to from Paris. How hard I found it until someone gave me a picture dictionary. There were the English words below the pictures and after that it all came clear. The three moth poems are in The Treekeeper's Tale, along with other ice and snow poems 'Siberian Ice Maiden', 'Frozen Horses' and much else.
When the white ermine wings
opened at night
like a book of frost
smoking in the dark,
I understood the colours of vowels
painted on moth fur –
the black, red, saffron signs
of a new language.
Antennae grew from my forehead,
my tongue was restless in its chrysalis.
I felt lift-off
as if my bones had melted.
I stepped out into the snow –
not even an exoskeleton to protect me
in this strange country.