I am washing dishes. The water is so hot that it scalds my skin as I sink my forearms into the soapy grime and hold them there. Clumps of burnt, congealed sauce float up from the surface of the pan that I am smearing clean with the pads of my fingers. The window above the sink frames the backyard, listless and dead as it waits for the first snow. My eyes feel thick. The air is dry. I circle the pan again with my wet hand. A line spreads into the fabric of my blouse where I’m pressing my hips to the counter. I watch the bare trees stand still in the yard.
A small something thuds against the center of the window pane. I see the flash of a struggle, a fall–a bird?
I drift to the back door and step out into the yard. It is biting cold. Slick streams of dishwater run down to my palms, gathering in the creases, chilling as soon as they hit the air. I round the corner of the house, consider the ground beneath the kitchen window. I see the still body of a moth larger than my fist.
Hunger opens, wide and unexpected beneath my skin. It forms a throbbing cavity the exact shape of this furred insect body, these crumpled grey wings leaking dark fluid, marring the brilliant shocks of gold. The thorax twitches—one last error in the process of death—and I pluck the moth from the stiff grass. I cup the body in my palms, then crush it into my wanting mouth. I chew and swallow; it tastes of the stems of oak leaves, like thick, soggy dust held in a thin, wet box. What have I done? I wonder, but soon forget.
I look beyond the fence, into the next yard and the streets further down the hill. Fog is rolling in again, and the rumble of the evening train gathers insistently on the wind. The houses on both sides of the street shake—I can see it when I hold my head very still. My arms are nearly dry now. I see that I’ve left the back door open, swinging.
In the house, I make my way to the couch, overcome, and pull a blanket over myself, watching the light fade from the front window until it is nothing but answerless black. As I tilt toward sleep, I hear the thump of fat raindrops. But they are hitting the pane sideways, pure parallel.
It is a high wind.
Dozens of flitting bodies—the moths pound the window. Flight after erratic flight snuffs against the glass in a torrent as I watch through tremors and my own grinding teeth. They keep coming. Hundreds. Hundreds. The amassing pile will bury the house. Delicate antennae twitch, and I can hear them, just faintly. They call me to the old wooden window frame, now smothered with stilled wings, with viscous hemolymph trickling in a rake of streams. The cavity yawns, insatiable.
I flip the lock, and hoist the window upward.
Amy E. Casey lives and works in Wisconsin, near the cold shores of Lake Michigan. Her work has been featured in NonBinary Review, Split Rock Review, Psaltery & Lyre, Bramble, and elsewhere. She shares her process on Instagram @amy_e_casey.
A Song for Amy