How To Write a Poem About Butterflies

Go ahead and put butterflies in the title so it’s clear where this is going. Write it on your daughter’s eighth birthday so you can establish right away you’re a mother—easier to admit sentiment than fight it. Start with maybe the day she was born, how you almost died from high blood pressure, or her first day of second grade, when you watched the eclipse with her class: either would suggest a sense of urgency, of the ephemeral. Plus you could use the word moon. Then lean scientific, throw in some facts about the painted lady migration passing through the city, that because the butterflies are drawn to the drought-resistant flowers your husband planted, your front yard is full of them. You could mention how your daughter’s cat Ruby died last week in that front yard, after crossing the street in front of a moving car, after her body—you watched—sort of flipped up in the air, so you thought she was being stung by bees—but then you’d be using the word died twice, and there’s no good synonym for died, like you can’t say the cat perished, or expired, or kicked the bucket. In any case, put in that the sidewalk is stained with splatters of her blood, because it’s a cold hard fact, right? It grounds things. And cars still fly by at double the speed limit, ignoring the sign you made, Slow Down, Kids and Pets Live Here. So it’s not all peachy, even though there are maybe 200 butterflies in the front yard right now, covering every flower, fluttering, they’re, they’re, animating the plants. When you walk out, you startle them so they—what do they do? They rise up, they take off, they fly up off the flowers for a second to see what you will do. You don’t do anything, you stand there watching, thinking it’s now, knowing what you want is impossible, but it’s true that the air is all wings and movement, it’s an ascension, and you are here.


  1. Mishan says:

    beautiful as usual


  2. Luli Sanderford says:

    Excellent though it made me cry. Of course anything about Ruby makes me cry.

    Sent from my iPhone



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