Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.

In this week’s poem Stuart Kestenbaum of Deer Isle tells a tale of adolescent desire, a moth, and a mysterious light that burns inside him.

The Light

By Stuart Kestenbaum

A Camel-smoking teenager, I have just returned

from New York City with my friend

Ellen, she of the wispy blonde

hair in her eyes and the sophisticated

laugh, when a moth dives deep

into my throat, so that I can’t

talk or swallow. We are on the way

to her house, for what I pray will be

love and I can’t even tell her

what has happened, I just

stand there in the mercury vapor

light on South Orange Avenue

until we part and I walk home.

The day in New York with the visits

to her genteel friends,

the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

and Art Students League and the

exotic promise of the train station

all behind us, I knew I just wanted

a girl to put in my life to make

me whole and instead I swallow

a moth, the brown and white

moth that circles endlessly around

the glow, that can burn itself on the

candle of desire. It must have been

after the light that was

inside me, the light that

even after all these years

I have not yet seen or understood.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2003 Stuart Kestenbaum. Reprinted from “House of Thanksgiving,” Deerbrook Editions, 2003, by permission of Stuart Kestenbaum. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, special consultant to the Maine poet laureate, at [email protected] or (207) 228-8263.