Winter 2011 • Vol. XXXIII No. 1 PoetryJanuary 1, 2011 |

The Butterfly Conservatory

The colored lights they are always stringing. The placemats they set. How I stay past an initial shyness at my own delight. A Large White dies, bodiless, a papyrus with fading ink. Nothing dies with less evidence of rot. When the scrolls were found at Qumran, there were forty copies of the Psalms. Eight lines in each stanza, read from right to left. What it must have felt like to recognize one had discovered this famous text, perhaps in its original form. They carry their prayer books, their portable shrines, the ones that depict their battles with the wind. A written language is one with trap doors to fall through. When I talk to myself, they open, too. A butterfly suddenly becomes impatient in its shroud, the one that resembles a gray leaf. The one that is imitating a raindrop. Could any of us mark the moment we realized we were unhappy? Could we mark the moment we wanted out? In the house of the butterflies, there is a glass case. In it, the pupae of hundreds. Monarchs strung lik

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Melissa Kwasny is the author of four books of poetry, most recently The Nine Senses (Milkweed Editions, 2011). Her prose collection, Earth Recitals: Essays on Image and Vision, was recently published by Lynx House Press (2013). She lives in western Montana.

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