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National Poetry Month, poem by Sheila Black


East Mesa

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

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