Thysania agrippina – the White Witch Moth.
Bodhiddharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th or 6th century. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the monks of Shaolin Monastery that led to the creation of Shaolin kungfu. In Japan, he is known as Darum.
No, I had no clue either but this is the painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Dulle Griet, mentioned in the poem.
Dulle Griet (anglicized as Dull Gret), also known as Mad Meg, is a figure of Flemish folklore who is the subject of a 1563 oil-on-panel by Flemish renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The painting depicts a virago, Dulle Griet, who leads an army of women to pillage Hell, and is currently held and exhibited at the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp.
The only masterpiece
I ever created
was a picture of the moth Thysania Agrippina
in pastel on gray paper.
Because I was never
much good at painting. The essence of art
is that we aren’t very good at it
The moth Thysania agrippina
rose from the stiff gray paper
with outstretched, comb-like antennae,
with a plush bottom resembling the buttocks
of the pigwidgeons of Hieronymous Bosch,
with thin legs on a shrunken chest
like those on Brueghel’s grotesque figures
in Dulle Griet, it turned into Dulle Griet
with a bundle of pots and pans in her bony hand,
it turned into Bodhiddharma
with long sleeves,
it was Ying or Shade
and Yang or Light, Chwei or Darkness
and Ming or Glow, it had
the black color of water, the ochre color of earth,
the blue color of wood,
I was as proud of it as an Antwerp councillor
or the Tenth Patriarch from the Yellow River,
I sprinkled it with shellac, which is
the oath that painters swear on Goethe’s Science of Colors,
and then the art teacher took it to his study
and I forgot all about it
the way Granny used to forget
her dentures in a glass.
translated by David Young with Dana Hábová,
Rebekah Bloyd and the author
faber & faber