Danaus gilippus, the Queen
50 sons dreamed genitalia, 50 drunk sons saw a cloud of butterflies crowding & dispersing & clouding,
a murmuration’s persistent puissance over dolphins’ scattered brine twittering
50 eyes held their salt as they moved to the government of beams & their hair blew blue in the
strung to sails, that these butterflies, born for sunlight & heavy Earth’s delight
opened softly brown.
They couldn’t know it was the beginning, yet
they began their great responsibility of imitation: Home, & love
this erratic thing
planes’ own landing sparklers in descent
making Him smile
as a deaf man’s child runs by not seeing him
What do butterflies see?
The endless camp
where smothered clefted detraction, life-long infarction, the caterpillar beholds light & dark
status as bee-hued tiger
does not invade,
stalking a leaf.
It takes off his or her helmet
to the sixth instar,
stepping out the shed of edible gowns. The adult takes nectar
birthed upside-down it sups on its old house in milkweeds,
an immaculate lantern
Adults take putrefaction, of liquefied deer, hide of burning rattler, all still-lifes’ nativity
transformed to women at last
only at knife-point: 49 sons sobered witnessed it.
How long do butterflies live?
Christ smiles at the question
Longer than a city
Longer than the sea,
but not longer than a fountain,
Whose veins palpitate
in the snowy stars to the border of the wood.
The train shudders.
Here come those panes where
the snow is fixed in sunset, the fluttering trees in blistering film come to swarm our knees,
a print Van Gogh
perhaps loved, our blanketed galaxy in a fork of trees, a meter of sepia sea
the child entered
Checkered skippers, the Red Admiral, Sara
Orangetip Mourning cloaks
the two-tailed swallow-tail
they rise from the fields
in the long hard shadows of leafless crowns
teeth & bones
there is a secret that emerges like a butterfly
if I knew what it was
I would tell you
as a worried child I put myself to sleep with
the uncontrollable emblem of silhouette
pictures unfolding behind plastic
It’s August 11th which is another way to say it isn’t
Despite the birds piping behind
Though we have paid to the day
with the mercuric loop
never the maker of wings
our boat was not the first whose sun-stalled ages twined
We wished you Monarch
& all wedded to death what dancing before us cries
I was only hoping we could see
the boy-King together, whose dim & endless silence is theirs, the Sisters Danae
born for sunlight, & heavy earth’s delight
born for sunlight, & heavy Earth
for the absence of sleep & shadows is the world sun-filled drinking from flowers
& September is your birthday.
Nicole Broadhurst's work has appeared in Visions: International, The Miami Herald's Tropic Magazine, the University of Miami's Mangrove, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Maverick, Icarus, Mudlark, Kennesaw Review, Poet Lore, among others, & is forthcoming in 5_trope. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize she received The Eve of St. Agnes Award from Negative Capability.