Poetry Monday: “The Moth and the Flame” by Cathy Mealey

***UPDATE 3/20***
Ignore the first part of this post. Voting is over and I lost. Move on. Nothing to see here.
Good morning, world!
I’m giddy as a goat!
And I’ve got a poem
that needs your vote.
Seriously, for those who have been following the Madness! 2012 Poetry Tournament over at Ed Decaria’s Think Kid, Think! blog, thank you for your support of all the poets taking part. If you want to see all the Round 2 poets, check out the main Scoreboard.

Enough about me, though! There are much more interesting things afoot today, and they have taken the shape of one Cathy Mealey and her poem, “The Moth and the Flame.” Cathy is a children’s writer with a flair for rhyme and a good love story, so stop fluttering around, settle down, and have a listen!

[column size=”1-2″]

The Moth and the Flame

The moth nearly swooned
as he flit toward the flame.
“My sweet spark! My love light!
You signaled. I came!

How you dazzle and twinkle
and tempt me to touch.
I’d kiss you my darling, if
you’d not scorch so much!”

The flame danced and flickered.
She’d wax, then she’d wane.
She glowed with a passion
that drove Moth insane.

But her heart was not his,
for another she burned —
a jealous sky-bolter whose
jolt she once spurned.

ZZZTT! Lightning flashed!
Then wild thunder boomed.
Cold torrents poured forth.
The lovers seemed doomed!

“Fear not!” cried our hero.
He snatched up a leaf,
and sheltered the flame,
who stayed dry underneath.

The leaf smoked and sizzled.
Eight embers popped out.
“Our children!” cheered Moth.
That’s what love’s all about.

[/column] [column size=”1-2″ last=”1″]
The Moth and the Flame
Dangerous love!

[heading style=”1″]Guest Poet Snickerview™ ~ Cathy Mealey[/heading]

What’s Up with Cathy

Cathy Ballou MealeyCathy, who are you, where are you, and how long have you been obsessed with flying insects?
Who am I? Perhaps who am I not would be easier to answer. I am not an Olympic athlete, a mathematician, or an undercover agent. Nor am I a published author, but I am working hard to address that deficiency.

I am presently north of Boston, Massachusetts where the Atlantic is frigid, the marathoners-to-be are pounding the pavement, and the grocery stores have been sold out of corned beef and cabbage since St. Patrick’s Day.

I prefer flying insects of the friendly sort, like ladybugs, butterflies, and lightning bugs. Those that bite and sting can just buzz off, please!

I refused to take biology in high school because I didn’t want to spend the summer pinning bugs to Styrofoam…but something tells me you’re not squeamish. So what is your favorite method for capturing six-legged creatures?
I am a nature lover — as long as I have the proper attire — so I am not too squeamish. However, the hapless jarred insect in my video was actually just a toy! There are batteries concealed in the Mason jar lid and the plastic butterfly is fastened to an invisible wire. Tapping the top of the jar makes the bug flutter. I gave it to my daughter for Christmas so she could stop saving insect “pets” in her room.

Ooh, you tricky trickster you! And here I was enjoying images of you hopping around the yard with your jar. So what was your inspiration for the poem, and how long did it take to write it?
We have had an unusually damp and mild winter in New England, which produced a bumper crop of moths. (Ewww.) When my husband came home from work each night, the moths that were clustered around our front porch light would stampede into our foyer. (Can flying things stampede?) (At No Water River they can!) I just had to find out why moths were so attracted to light. It’s called positive phototaxis — they don’t scurry away from light like cockroaches do. Some theories posit that the confused moths actually use the moon to navigate at night, and are disoriented by artificial light.

When Susanna Hill issued her challenge for submissions featuring unlikely Valentines, the light-loving moths were an easy inspiration. I think the poem was written in a week or so in order to meet Susanna’s entry deadline. (She is a cruel master, that one!)

Wow, thanks for the moth info. I feel so smart now! Do you focus mainly on entomological subjects (that’s bugs, kids!), or do you do other stuff, too?
I began to think about writing for children last spring, and jumped into the fray during WriteOnCon in August 2011, through which I found some wonderful kidlit writers, editors, and agents. I began following their blogs, reading their books, and learning about the craft. There’s a wealth of information available online for beginning writers, and the writing community has been a welcoming and supportive network. My 2012 goal is to have at least three well-edited, critiqued, and polished manuscripts ready to submit to agents and/or publishers.

My first attempt, now securely and permanently in a drawer, was about an oyster (that’s a mollusk, kids!). I committed every imaginable sin of rhyme, meter, alliteration, and anthropomorphism.

Can you use the word “entomological” in a rhyme?


What did you think about making the poetry video? Do you have any bloopers to share so we can laugh at commiserate with you?
Cold. It was very, very cold. I was trying not to shiver on camera, and thinking I would trade places with Natalie (of “Cactus Toe” fame) in a heartbeat, even though she was dodging cactus spines. But I was so flattered at the invitation to film something for the No Water River video poetry library, that I felt warm and fuzzy inside! (Mmhmm. Trying to make nice after the entomological rhyme fly-over.)

There were twisted, muddled, frozen word bloopers indeed, but the stiff March winds whooshing through the microphone meant they just sounded like two minutes of static. I just hit delete!

What do you do when you’re not encasing [fake] moths in glass?
When I’m not writing, I keep very busy in my roles as wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, alumna, and so on. I probably spend far too much time reading blogs and checking Facebook. I also try to do my part supporting the arts and education and literacy efforts, as well as advocating for children and adults with autism. My son was diagnosed with autism in 2003.

Can we come visit you? And if so, can you guarantee that most of the creatures we encounter will have a maximum of four legs?
I welcome visitors to my fledgling blog at Bildebok, where you’ll mostly find work I have written and shared on other blogs. I don’t offer many fancy links or writerly advice, as there are so many blogs out there already doing a fine job on those accounts. No guarantees or warranties on leg count. I’m on Facebook as Cathy Ballou Mealey, where I am hoping Renée will “friend” me soon! (Nope. Not until I get an entomological rhyme.)

Thanks for stopping by, Cathy, and for adding “The Moth and the Flame” to No Water River’s growing video poetry library!
Thank you so much for inviting me to No Water River. It was a pleasure and an honor!


Cathy has written an entomological poem. I repeat, Cathy has written an entomological poem. Now we can be friends.

[heading style=”1″]”The Moth and the Flame” Activities[/heading]

  • From the brain of Cathy Mealey: My daughter adores Jack Prelutsky’s Scranimals book and Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant. Using that model, we’ve written and illustrated poems about vegetable animals of our own invention, like the Carrotiger. I think you get a taste for that in “The Moth and the Flame” when the title characters produce their ember offspring. They fly like Dad and glow like Mom! I would encourage young readers to find Mr. Prelutsky’s book and try to dream up their own blended critters.
  • Enchanted Learning has dozens of moth and butterfly printouts including life cycle worksheets for butterflies, moths, and caterpillars; anatomy labeling sheets in several languages; and a calendar featuring pictures and info about various butterflies and moths.
  • You want to play with paper and glue? Enchanted Learning has crafts too! 
  • The Florida Museum of Natural History provides a beautiful 50-page Teacher’s Guide full of fun classroom activities that explore the lives and times of butterflies and moths.

Video Location: A cold New England yard where Cathy runs amok with a butterfly net, somewhere near Boston, Massachusetts.

See more poems in my poetry video library.
“The Moth and the Flame” copyright © 2012 Cathy Mealey. All rights reserved.

You may also like...


    1. Thank you Stacy! Perhaps I should have read a brand new poem for NWR…but I liked sneaking in the Prelutsky reference. Maybe Renee will give me another chance in a warmer month of 2013!

    1. I have to confess that moths give me the heebie-jeebies, hence the EWWW about the image of stampeding moths. Ick.

      Oh, and now I have the image of squished moths under a wiper blade…thanks Cathy!

  1. You are a tricky trickster! I totally thought the moth in the jar was real and thought it was such a clever idea to include it. I enjoyed your poem very much and thought you did a lovely job with the video. You are a natural! Great Job, Cathy! 🙂

  2. I voted for ya, Renée!!

    Cathy, I loved your moth poem first and second time around!

    Cathy, I too am a nature lover and I want to know if your stories tend to be nature focused in some way?

    1. Thanks, Joanna. I love writing about nature, and I enjoy browsing nature and wildlife blogs for inspiration. I hope reading will get kids hooked on protecting the world and creatures around them!

  3. Super poem Cathy! I read it first thing but came back to read your interview too. It’s great that you write about insects, I need to expand my repertoire from zoo animals lol. Looking forward to trying to do this video.

    1. Ha, Catherine! I’m always thinking I need to get away from the animals…but I CAN’T! Writing about people just doesn’t interest me. Maybe we’ll both have to elbow our way into Cathy’s insect territory.

  4. Cathy loved the interview — I didn’t realize you had such an interest in nature and insects. You are a bit quirky — wish I had mom teaching me to love insects instead of swatting them! Loved your poem the first and second time –especially on the video. You really write poetry so well!

    1. You are sweet Pat! Truly I don’t like things that sting – so bring on the pretty butterflies, spunky ladybugs and glowing lightning bugs! I thank my rural upbringing with the opportunity to appreciate nature.

    1. Yes Eric – I entered this poem in the Unlikely Valentines contest at Susanna Hill’s blog. I’m glad you like ‘wax and wane.’ I wonder why we limit those lovely words to moons and flames?

  5. I loved this poem when I read it on Susanna’s blog and now to hear you recite it so sweetly and perfectly is such a treat! Love the interview too! Such fun! But these recording conditions Renee subjects us to- cold, wind, flying obstacles- not to mention the verbal abuse afterward…We’ll have to talk 🙂

    P.s. I tried to leave a comment on your blog too,but it wouldn’t go through.

  6. Great interview ladies! Renee, I always love your entertaining questions! 🙂 And Cathy, you did such a great job of performing your excellent poem on video! Renee invited me to do this a while back and i couldn’t pull it off. (It didn’t help that it was 9 degrees at the time with a fierce wind! :)) I am filled with admiration for you and Natalie and Iza (and of course Renee, but she does this every week :))! Thanks for the fun!

  7. Go Cathy! Love the poem and the reading and the interview. So nice to learn more about Cathy, a very talented writer. Tricky, but still talented 🙂 . . .

  8. Hi there Renee, I love the poetry, the video clip, the photos, the beautiful interview – everything really!

    These are my favorite lines though from the poem:
    “The flame danced and flickered.
    She’d wax, then she’d wane.
    She glowed with a passion
    that drove Moth insane.” — only a woman can do that. 🙂

  9. Cathy, I loved your poem the from the first reading. I loved it the second, the third, the fourth…you get the idea. You have a real talent for rhyme and for telling a story.
    Sorry, I’m just getting over here…I don’t know how I missed this. I think it’s all the “goings on” since I have found this wonderful community of children’s writers 😉

  10. Cathy, I remember your poem from before. What a treat to hear you read it. I also like studying bugs with my boys. We try to stick to a catch and release policy. 🙂 Thanks again Renee for another great interview.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *