Poets for Science
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5. Butterfly

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—after Rorschach inkblot #5

 

Optimus Prime transformer in one hand,
my son waves his other around and above our faces.
I think he’s brushing letters into air-sand.
“What are you writing?” I ask,
glad that, at four, he wants to write.
“Swooshing away all the blue

butterflies fluttering,” he says,
his r’s still sounding more like w at this age.
“How many are there?” I ask.

His fingers touch my eyelids.
“Like stars, Mama. Can’t you see them?”

*

In seventh grade I would reserve a special time
to look at a collection of butterflies. I was drawn
to Morpho peleides, its six-inch iridescent blue

wingspan. I learned much from the butterfly:
make sure some part of you
blends in; give the impression
many eyes are watching; disorient

a predator through the use of bright color.
The greatest lesson came from a film,
a shower of Morpho peleides

flitting among the foliage. Like Morse code,
sky hues pulsed on and off with earth hues
as their wings opened and closed.

Then, needing to rest, they raised their wings
and vanished from sight.

*

Back in Indiana, I can’t see
many of the stars. Near as I am to the city,
artificial light erases every other light.

But here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,
I had spent the day with another kind
of light—migrating monarch butterflies.
Trees leafed with bright orange wings,
I felt they might lift off at any moment.

Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed,
what some call an invasive species.
Milkweed is poisonous and so monarchs
are poisonous, but that doesn’t help
slow their disappearance.
Climate change, toxins, dwindling

habitat. In a few decades, my grandchildren
will be able to see butterflies in flight
only in films, only in the light of their imaginations.