As a poem “The Moth” burns bright with visceral similes and metaphors, stunning rhetorical effects and electric language that hums. Confidence in a confluence of ideas and images runs through the poem from start to finish and the lushness of the entire effect draws one back to the poem for multiple readings. While sadness and something sinister rage through the world of the poem, there’s also a softness that invites interpretations. Sue Chenette writes: “What gives a poem its ring of authority? For me, in this poem, it’s the way the images are handled. They work to draw the moth as metaphor for humanity.” Aaron Tucker observes, “There are a lot of great phrases here (the shrieking matchstick, the sun loosening its hands from the day’s throat) that fit quite well in this really dramatic and philosophical-ish work.” The power of poetry is in taking the seemingly simple material of language and arranging it into unforgettable phrasings. By this definition, “The Moth” is an astonishing success. – juror Kevin Spenst

We asked grade-11 poet Farah Ghafoor what inspired her to write this poem: “Quite literally how moths fly into the lamps as if it’s their sole purpose in life,” she explains. “As tempting as the light is, the determination of the moth is pretty unnerving, especially after so many painful collisions. Like people, moths have the tendency to keep trying something no matter how many times they fail, which I find to be kind of beautiful. To take their objective away would be pretty cruel, however, failing is what’s best for moths because if they ever got through the lamp’s glass they would most certainly die. In my poem, I imagine what would happen if the moth ever got through the glass.”

Farah also runs an online literary magazine for teens called Sugar Rascals!

“The Moth” by Farah Ghafoor, grade 11

Do not remind me again of how, just outside this small

country, the waves slam against the beach like dozens

of bluebirds on glass. Aimless hunger before

the people who surround you as red-slabbed cliffs

of meat. You, a darkening bruise, occupy

this sandy porch until I can not wish you away any

longer.  Who am I to quell the oil

lamp in front of the moth?


The moth and its eyes like unyielding black stones.

The moth and its unceasing quest for fire.


I relinquish civility and you are a lit, shrieking

matchstick. I give you no exits because you wanted

none. I open windows to expose you

and the sweet breath of death in your mouth.

In the burning, you are satisfied for a moment

and all the infinities you have escaped.


Of course, one day the sun will loosen its hands from

the day’s throat. One day, this house will be nothing

more than a dim bulb in your wooden fingers,

and we will both only be smoke on glass.

Read an interview with Farah and the other winners here!

2 thoughts on “FARAH GHAFOOR: THE MOTH

  1. Beautiful imagery here. Can’t believe this is a grade 11 student. Well done.

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