Friday, November 9, 2012

The black butterfly 1989

Poem or story? Perhaps both. But true either way.

                   The Black Butterfly 1989

Two days after the funeral in darkest January in the silent house
a butterfly appeared, out of nowhere it seemed, in the room 
where she used to sit,  her long legs stretched out resting

on a footstool, cigarette in one hand, wine glass in the other.
It flew from window ledge to table top or settled now and then
on the arm of a chair or patterned rug as if in thought, or briefly slept.

It was black, quite black from wing tip to wing tip, from antennae
to abdomen. I had not seen one like it and have not since. I thought,
scepticism apart (hers and mine), had she elected to return

in animate form to satisfy a curiosity or concern, a black butterfly
would have matched her wit. What to do with such a guest,
wanderer or recidivist? A diplomatic quandary. It was cold outside.

I let it be. Its gentle wings whispered in the quiet room until one day
I found it dead, on its side, its wings folded, a black triangle, little more.

Obsequies are always inadequate. This town with its brick pavements 
and restricted parking is no place to bury a butterfly.


  1. " place to bury a butterfly." Breaks my heart this chilly morning, but is so beautiful, Joe.

  2. I can't provide an answer to your question but I can say this: having seen the poem I have no desire to see a competing short story. It seems such an arid observation to say that this intensely moving poem has a perfect structure. Perhaps it's better to say it has a beginning and an end held apart by a series of discursive features all of which contribute unerringly to the curve. You've never done better.

  3. My favorite and only burial ground is my memory.

  4. This poem does indeed move me intensely. "..a black butterfly/would have matched her wit.." The whole poem is also intensely well structured and says much more in its 19 lines, than any prose narrative could. Excellent poem.