The eighth instalment in our series where authors revisit the opening sentences of their stories or poems. Here, Laura Kasischke about the beginning lines of her poem ‘The first resurrection’.

 

The moth locked up all
winter in the strongbox.

The poem ‘The First Resurrection’ occurred to me with the image of the moth in the strongbox, but it was the sound of the words, evoking that image, that I was trying hard to appreciate as music. ‘Aw, aw, ah, ah’. I broke the lines between all and winter so that all and strongbox would be linked, and could echo-rhyme, hoping that the sound of them would be resurrected when father enters the poem, after the separation of several lines of I, I, I. . . (‘mind, while, sky’).

There really was a moth I found in a toolbox (not as musical or interesting as ‘strongbox’), alive, in the attic, in that box. I have no idea if it was there all winter, but in my projected mood, it had been. It had spent the winter there, waiting. Patiently. So patiently that it was finally, really, dead? – although it got out of there, resurrected itself, in quite a hurry when I opened the box.

My father had been dead for a few months, and the moth was a little mystical to me because of the dislocation brought on by a death. Where is my father? was still a question I was asking myself a lot. When the phone rang, I’d think maybe he was calling. In the middle of the day I’d think, Oh my God, I need to call my father. . . The moth, on some other afternoon in the attic, would have just been a moth, but that afternoon its (imagined?) survival of a long dark time, and its flight made me think of resurrection.

But it really was the sound of the words ‘moth, locked, all, strongbox. . . father, water. . .’ and how they seemed to come together in ‘once / and for all’ that made that shivery little experience a poem for me. Writing it was a relief somehow, too. I felt that writing that poem had released something like a moth out of my mind. And, perhaps a little insanely, I felt like I let some part of my father that was still stuck inside of me, selfishly kept behind by my grief, go free too.

 

Photograph © Ben Sale



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