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ruby shifrin

Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella)

Hesitating to thumb-squish the neat quarter-inch clothes moth to a smudge on the wall.

Moths whose grubs endlessly gobble wool, crochet carpets, chew chunks from mittens, make holey that Christmas cashmere, pock and ladder tee shirts.

As caterpillars they scoff themselves silly, yet as moths—so tidy, benign— they choose to scuttle more than fly, huddle in lowlights, avoid the glamour glare.

Not the moth you’d notice at a party— a touch of ochre, a touch of tan, a tiny tuft of rust on its head, a fumbling wannabe punk, its flight a bungled curtsey.

No Emperor Moth in mustard and magenta glad rags, no striped and spotted Jersey Tiger. Tineola bisselliella is the homely type— the efficient secretary behind the scenes— results noted, rarely loved. We know it only as Clothes Moth.

It never dances to madness under streetlights, buffeting crazed into headlamps. Unlike its bewitched cousins— numbers dwindling, extinction calling, out-scenting mates, frantically pollinating— Clothes Moth prefers the underneath of things, subterfuge, an opportunistic destroyer.

Thumbs up—this time— my cupped hands release it to fresher air. But there’s no negotiation, no bargaining here. It’ll be back.


Ruby Shifrin studied Fine Art in the U.K., where she also writes poetry and flash fiction and takes photographs. She currently lives in a suburb in the middle of the country, and hopes to escape to live by the coast.


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