Questions about Butterflies

by David Hernandez

We are three in a gallery high-ceilinged
and boxed in light, six eyes lost in the geometry
of butterflies jigsawed to canvas, not painted
but the actual fluttering things. Think
the shattered neon of church windows, mosaics
and kaleidoscopes. Think beauty blown apart
and pieced back together. We are six hands
flitting up to point out the multitude of wings:
yellow, owl-eyed, iridescent blue wings
and wings of velvet black, veined in green.
We are three tongues cocooned in our mouths.
I have so many questions. They had to be bred,
then exterminated. How and how? And how
many butterflies, how many days, hours
of held breath, of tweezers lifting wings?
Do butterflies suffer, does the furred
abdomen ever ache, thorax ever throb?
All those butterflies I impaled on a cactus
when I was a boy—will I go to hell for that?
Is there a heaven for butterflies and if so
how tiny the halos? Is there a God butterfly?
A Nietzsche butterfly? How many questions
about butterflies have been printed on the wings
of books? Is Do butterflies have walking dreams?
one of them? We are six ears and footsteps
echoing inside the gallery, then not echoing
now that we’re outside, now pavement
and wind and the flight of leaves over sidewalk.
There’s traffic on the drive home, the weaving
of cars and conversation. Our anxieties
and pills. Our family. Our dying, our dead.
The freeway is metal and glass going eighty,
blood-orange taillights chasing blood-orange
taillights. Think turn signals. Think migration.
Think of us, wingless, flying into our lives. 

From Hoodwinked (Sarabande, August 2011).

via Narrative Magazine

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