"Why does a farmer shoot a six-foot butterfly, a hiker asks."

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Issue 14: The Double Issue

Issue 13: Free Form

Issue 12: The Necessary Ear

Issue 11: The Necessary Eye

Issue 10: Out on a Limb

Issue 9: The Missing Body

Issue 8: The Lily

Issue 7: Passages

Issue 6: No More Tears

Allegra Wong


Across the south yard evening
a woman waves from a window.
Her wrist bleeds.

Ellen, on the sofa, listens
to Sissela, from a land of women
with nightgowns on fire.

A woman rises to wired windows,
talks about the father of her baby.

Ellen strokes Sissela's hand
picks dead lice from her hair,
but really she longs to write,
not listen to a fuck-up's story.

She keeps a diary and calls it living.

After supper she lingers in her room,
smoking meth, reading A Room Of One's Own,
writing love notes to Charles Bukowski.

Later her arm droops, spent,
among the folds of her skirt.
She looks out across the south yard evening.


Near Ellensburg

In astral lamp light, Jotul-warm,
she reads of houses emptied after death,
impressions of life beyond her wrists,
of middle-aged children carrying out
candelabra, Bristol vases, paintings
their parents purchased together.

She listens to the Jotul green wood
fire and him showering, smells coffee brewing,
and she mistakes Puget Sound, outside the window,
for pink sky breaking the paper-white and gray.

She and he, companions now,
have known Ballard winter nights
sharing Richard Hugo and James Welch passages.
Summer afternoons stopping
in Hoh River Valley
to examine licorice ferns crowning cedars
at the shore, they mistake the calls of cormorants
and petrels nesting in the sea stacks
for the voices of sea lions.

Near Ellensburg, in a small pasture cemetery,
she mistakes a lamb's cry for a human mother's
over her dead child. The solitary opening,
permits her--and him--to glimpse her mother busy
even in death bathing her sister.

Remembrances too big to hold in their arms
like vases or paintings, remembrances like
chrysanthemums spilling along a chipped brick path
when the rampant hollyhocks and roses
shrouded the picket fence. She would run
past her dead sister's toy desk
to a hollow beneath the wisteria
in the rank back garden
and listen to neighbor children buy chocolate
from the singing sidewalk candy man,
tinkling bells sewn to his shirt.

Remembrances so big, that they caress,
suggest how long it takes to love, how long
it takes to stop touching, stop wanting to touch.


Mother Visits

Her longing for smell brought her back
to Hixville. North & South, Questions of Travel.
She talks of her three-day trip to Key West, how
standing at the gate of Bishop's White Street,
she believed she could identify origins
by journeying far from her territory.

She understands she is dead.

"Did anyone see FDR arrive by limousine
for his postmaster's burial? Did anyone
see me at age seventeen waiting for Eleanor
in the Civil War heroes' circle?"

Mother asks me to stroke her shoulders, wet
her lips with strawberries and grapes.
Her vault is sealed with epoxy.
Her casket is locked, her mouth sewn shut.

"Talk to me so the darkness will lift."

Near her grave, the boughs
break over infant headstones.
The stone angel is blue in the cold.
Snowflakes drop through her hand
shaped to carry a pansy bouquet.


Six-Foot Butterfly

It lies by the edge of a canyon. Marigold, ocher orange, brittlebush, onyx-striped. At dusk, it flames. Hikers camp near it, warm tins of beans over it. Nearby villagers name it angel, glowworm, UFO. Then a farmer shoots it. An entomologist is called. Why does a farmer shoot a six-foot butterfly, a hiker asks. Dislikes gossamer? Rush of air, whirl of sand when it lifts at dawn? Shifts, resettles. The entomologist does not know. Examines, identifies it as western tiger swallowtail. Body soft as sable, as black. Dry wing tips midnight blue. Can't distinguish the gunshot wound from its markings in the dark. Why does a farmer shoot a six-foot butterfly, a villager asks. Misidentifies it as tussock moth? The entomologist does not know. He lies alongside it. Between his fingertips, its wings tear into blossoms.