moth-the-fertilizer by John Cox
a little dog could never keep my attention, not with so much nothing all around, its jealous mouth snarling, spit pooling and running, faster than light cusping the edge of prismatic fervor, yet garnished in color this room was not. it was the nothing’s mouth that was snarling—not the dog’s. much dust, years of ash and gunk, ashen gunk, as volcanoes, smut, sulfur and more, evolved, revolved until moving me here, much dust revolved around the room, revealing a room. the pale yellow of sulfur, it had no scent, but it was sulfur indeed, a sulfuric yellow lining the counter, the counter in need, the counter filled with nothing behind the dog, where smoke and dust commingled, coagulated into a bitter, blighted honey, sinking into a grey so grey it was turning blue. the candle, burning softly—how does a flame burn softly? it burns nonetheless, blistering burdens buried in the woolen pink of clawed skin, stripped clean, raw skin, manifested in-from organic feralty. welts arise, flames grow, flames wilt, it was burning softly, no matter the case, its spectrum of colors condensed, contained within the fallacious, transient border. two moths, one smaller than the other, one larger than the other, hovered about the flame, their wings like eye lids, puffing hardly a breath into the stale air, so dry they were, dust, sparkles, snow, wafted with each blink, decorating the sky with fragments of being, fractals of Want, wishing as they dive, diving as they wish, moving closer and closer to the burning- softly- flame. dust seemed to parade itself around the room, crying and spreading, multiplying in a way the moths never could, in the way a mouth never could, gritted teeth, gnawing tongue, a screeching jaw, my vision gone, the tunnel tight, my breath gone. the world beyond sight did not exist. the world without sight does not exist. outside my sight, all was black, the world grown quiet. the dog had died, lapping no longer, choking on the dust, the flakes, the blistered and dried skin of the moths molting as a new season had come around, a season bringing with it shards of music and notes of glass, a heat swarming beneath my coat made of flesh, and yet the flame was so far away, at the end of the tunnel. i did not mind the heat, reminding me of sleep, layer after layer of cloth enshrining me, ensnaring me, a tomb of wonder, a womb of somnolence, a somnolent solipsism where nothing else exists beyond the film of my closed eyes. still i sweat. the world was quite round in that moment. from the other side, the two beings, creators, or perhaps carriers, of smut, danced as no one in particular watched. they moved with sensuous grace, an annulment of rhyme, an ambient rhythm, careless carriers strutting about, fancying their deaths with passionate zeal, a curious cross—examination of what it means to be alive. the one that was smaller than the other had five wings, wings that were scrunched and broken, scattered like those shards, shattered like those notes, wings that gave birth to another by means of laceration. its extra wing made it no more the larger, gave it no newfound balance, no beam to move upon, for frailty flowed from the fluttering form, tripping upon the gelatinous skies, a newborn baby, a foundling fawn, stumbling in its gate, stubbing its toes, wings, tendrils of dust, cilia of muck, bastardized and leaden, led astray, away, away, and awaiting its crash. the one that was larger, it waited in the dark, waded through the dark, moving so far to the side it nearly did not exist, watching as the moon does, gravity causing Other to pulse, washing in and out as the tides. the flame pulsed with the heart that beat inside, gravity could not romanticize, could not mythologize, could not draw it down, to humanize!, for there it flew, rising and rising, higher and higher, straining for a world we never knew, straining for what lay beyond the enclosed, encapsulated doom of what it means for a ceiling to be overhead, overheard, crashing, wailing, burning, burning, and burning. the small followed, bearing itself, bracing itself, a bow, a curtsey, courtesy of kurt’s eye, hurt, tied, bound to two strings, merely a marble rolling about the ever shifting floor, a floor balancing on the tip of an iceberg, checkered and frayed, lost of all its pieces, gaining nothing in return. You can feel panic in the arms of your neighbor, hearts belching in the nighttime air, veins rapping on dermal doorsteps, seeking not entry but escape, the manic flight of bodies gone wild, time rupturing and filtering through the lens of microcosmic delay, decay, the smallest of things, the smallest of bugs, grown large only to fall, matured only to remain an infant. what is innocence? the word of innocence. the state of innocence. the world is innocent. the state is not. Chaos is not felt. perhaps it is known, or rather, not-known, not knowledge, but non-knowledge, teasing on the brink of awareness, on the brink of contradiction—on the brink of inflammation, the little moth panics. their wings faded from five to three, and three is too small a number for one to be a thing, for one to be alive. if only they were five, they would have risen anew, curious no more of what transience means, what it could be to transcend the dwellings where soils are created and scattered, moth-the-fertilizer, seeds in need of place to land. we think of bees, pollination, gold to gold to gold, but there are far more colors in this spectrum, or perhaps far less, less color, less shades, more shade, less hues, browns and greys, rushing from the blinking lids, the eyes losing sight. oh, the night, it came to a close. the moon, hovering in observance, having a happenstance, fell from on high, pushing its tide into the fire, allowing the sun to rise for what felt to be the first time. the perfume of death, i had never known it to smell like rubber. i had never known to smell, only to watch, but i lost my sight. the moon, watching as the black dust, the night film, grew smaller and smaller, continued to fall, a descent, face to the sky, arms straining, reaching wide, legs stumbling, four appendages, not five, not three, four, seeming to thrive, to be in control, and yet the vortex, the non-black hole, spiraled around the growing, glowing sun, drawing the moon’s body round and round. i wonder if the moon is aware of the sun’s existence. if it knows that its shine comes from a space beyond, a being without. if it knows that its shrine is always empty. how easy it is to fall—forgetful of gravity. there was a snap. there was a cry. the moon began to burn, to moan with(in) the sun, and from the ashes a smile rose, curved in the elegance of boundless—blackness, the wood-birthed tar spreading across whitened teeth, atop the sulfuric counter, giving life to the dust which knows nothing other than death. i thought of lovers, pacts sworn with tears of blood. i thought of fear, witness to the tragedy of Other. i thought of Want, wishing for the dark of sarcophagic cradle. i thought of fate, nature coming to a close. i rubbed my hand on the edge of the table, remembering the seat beneath me, the darkness subsiding, the tunnel and i—breathing. the walls had rounded, corners languished, anguished by vanished flight. the dog then barked, sounding rather confused, sounding as though they had never died.
John Cox is a writer from Louisville, KY. He now lives in Brooklyn and is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing at Long Island University. In his work, he likes to explore (and often explode) the boundaries and intersections between the visceral and the imaginative. He recently completed a novel.