Lepidoptera or Butterflies
There is a blue chair in a room with 60 men
It bears the gravity of a black hole,
an inward burning star, drawing
all light, all matter toward it.
Names flutter on it like butterflies with broken wings:
Fancy, Lenora, Consuela, Danie,
Diamond, Angelica, Destiny;
Skippers, Whirlabouts, Swallowtails, Metalmarks,
Ringlets, Hairstreaks, Queens . . .
More names than can be found in the sun-
shifting clouds of Pieridae, or Danaidae
migrating southward in the fall.
The room is a crazy time capsule, part
Greek temple, part Coliseum, part Chrysalis;
its entrance supported by 3 pillars:
Wisdom, Understanding, Patience. Strange,
magical runes embellish its walls,
foreign, exotic words which, like Joseph’s
golden plates, require Urim, Thummim
and breastplate to decipher:
Respect, Boundaries, Empathy, Honesty,
Victim, Human, Value;
Principalis, Veritas, Fidelis, Sinceritas,
Fundamentum, Oraculum, Magnificentium.
Some have had these words transcribed for them,
are beginning to understand;
some scratch their heads, stare
through walls to places which no longer exist.
nose the windows seeking nuts,
or Graham Crackers;
hawks can be seen on distant,
delicate clouds; the staccato crackle of
nearby gunfire startles
dense flocks of Starlings
momentarily darkening to sky.
A clock is held to the wall with eyes.
The men, being men, tell bad jokes,
cringe, inwardly, laugh, think:
what a jerk, tell more jokes.
Circumstances follow. There are 57
different remedies for their phobias, some
which actually work. Like Harvester moths,
we are carnivorous.
We have all ravaged beauty.
We, too, have names: Marquel, Byron, Donnie,
Calvin, Jamison, Daniel, Alden;
Fathers, Husbands, Brothers, Uncles,
Cousins, Acquaintances, Strangers . . .
more names than an entire generation of Cossidae, of
Sesiidae defoliating forests, orchards, gardens
from sea to blazing sea.
In ancient Greece it was said the soul
departs the dying body in the form of a butterfly.
In other parts, butterflies are acknowledged
keepers of displaced spirits, deliverers,
perhaps, of misplaced dreams.
I sit in my chair weighted in my crimes.
A breeze, a breath rustles the names and
I watch, enthralled, as the room begins
filling with others: standing, elbowing, smoking,
jabbering, listening, idling, genuflecting
almost as if we are not here.
But we are here, as they see us.
One, a big girl, an angry face
shoves at a guy’s shoulder, rages
LISTEN, DAMN YOU, LISTEN, her
momentum carrying straight through.
The guy nudges his neighbor, points at the clock.
A mother holds the hands of her children,
a boy with curls and a missing tooth,
a girl who needs to eat more. They
stand overlapping a man they resemble.
Their tears glisten like honeydew, drop
silently through to puddle on the floor.
Other tears fall, pool; a rivulet forms,
stretches, wends its way toward me
like a living finger of god.
The room is packed so densely my lungs labor.
There are butterflies in my stomach.
The sound of beating wings is deafening.
I want to hold, to comfort, every person,
every spirit I see. I long to take
the griefs buried so deeply within each
purify it all in the golden core of my being,
channel it all outward into the communal air,
into the astonishingly blue sea, dissolve it all
into the eternity which is our legacy.
I want desperately the power to repair butterfly wings.
Certain Lepidoptera, in larval stages,
bore patiently into the heartwood of full-grown trees,
emerge from a dying tree, metamorphosed,
fly away like living jewels.
I hear the silent clock ticking on the wall,
know the moment is gone,
see everything as it is: room, chair, men.
Their voices drone ceaselessly, as one
thought crowds my mind:
LOOK, DAMN YOU, LOOK, yet
my voice remains like the clock,
like the moon, like the tears.
I open my mouth to pronounce the words;
what comes out is butterfly.