Flashing over polished stones
our candles bobbed
like plums in cold water

and glanced across
the foxgloves and cow parsley
scenes we had breasted

in the tang of that
late summer afternoon’s
high smoulder.

Lured on by lamps
piercing the dark,
a theatre of our cheekbones and foreheads,

we made our way
across the shingle
to lay

sugared offerings

to see the moth:
of its kind,
the last.

Splendid of under wing
and crimson burning eye,
it had clung

to this half mile of deserted strand
surviving storm, heat
breaking wave

changing air encroaching
sea and crumbling

So it fed
and we watched
its wings, breathe in and out

as if in ecstasy,
its proboscis plunging
the flowing rags

of treacle and rum,
sucking like an opium addict
the sticky manna we had made.

Thus surfeited,
in the juddering beam
of its scarlet eye

but with broken wing
it flashed from the
clutch of earth to

simply vanish

and leave
as if to chide us
for being late comers

Now only air, dark water
and fading land,
hollow eyed and

parchment skinned
marks the empty road
back home.

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Rudyard Kipling


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