The butterflies mate at the top of tall
hills, a map they must hold by smell—the oiled
paths of the land, clustering above the
tree line as if they needed to see one
another laid bare. “We don’t understand
it,” the butterfly expert explains. “Hard
not to interpret—they need space and
silence just like we do to fall in love.”
My daughter wants to buy a box turtle
because of its long eager neck, a baby,
or how it appears to bask in the sunlight.
The cell phone towers and windmills
disturb the butterflies—like that old story
about the wing moving and everything
changing—a love, a fate. Their migration
patterns have snarled, fewer are born,
fewer sticky jewels of eggs, or caterpillars
clinging to the undersides of leaves. When
we hike here we can see the smog over
the city like a hand that wants to hold
us in its palm, too tight. We can hear
wind and behind the whine of traffic.
“Still some empty space around here,”
someone in the group says. We have come
to see the butterflies but there are none
to be found. The expert is disappointed.
He thought he had calculated properly—
the season, the temperature, the time.
Empty space and what we might pour into
it. For a moment, the notion blooms in
me like some as-yet-unseen flower. Love,
the love they hunt on the tops of the hills.
by Sheila Black
Sheila Black is the Executive Director of Gemini Ink. She is the author of Love/Iraq(CW Books 2009),Continental Drift (2010) and House of Bone (CW Press, 2007). Black was one of the editors of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). For information abut National Poetry Month events, go to npmsa.org