You Speak of Your Mother Putting Pins in Butterflies
by Carolyn Srygley-Moore

My memory is rather of my brother
tacking the exotic tropical beings to cardboard backings
then sheathed in pockets of clear plastic
like unborn tattoos
(I am not certain of the instant in which death occurred)

& he came to the hospital when I fell ill
& we went into the visiting area where you could hear the screaming
& he paged through the book

quietly weeping, explaining the target marks on the wing,
what rendered some poisonous, some food,
some a methodology for compass in migration…
& he whispered once, before leaving, his shirt drenched with sweat,
“Carolyn can you come out to play…,” weeping
while folding the butterflies away

& then boating on the sea, past red & yellow fishing villages,
as if painted on the hills in great tilting strokes of primary colors
& my brother leaning forward into the empty air
with a paper cup (so memory serves me) filled with air
& sunlight & the redolence of rainwater // & gently
crushing them // or no, keeping them perfectly

shaped like funeral lilies pressed
between wax paper, only to tack them again to a backing,
in sheathes like the transparent pages
in medical textbooks
(the instant of death eludes me)

or raising the larva from egg,
bearing it in a small tent until it girthed into chrysalis
only to watch it peel forth, colors pealing
to take the spirit from it like a glinting silverfish
by whatever means science exalted
& show the wings to the officials at the Smithsonian
for it is about that, our envy
for we have no wings…& no immanent motive
to migrate each season

& we tend toward the immolation
immolation of youth // beauty // truth
(the instant of death yet eludes)

* * *

“You Speak of Your Mother Putting Pins in Butterflies” (c) 2009 by Carolyn Srygley-Moore
all rights reserved, used with the poet’s permission

Carolyn Srygley-Moore is a long-ago, award-winning graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. She has been a Pushcart nominee, widely published in journals including Eclectica, Mimesis, Antioch, Stirring, & the antiwar anthology Cost of Freedom. Her digital chapbook Enough Light on the Dogwood is available at She lives in Upstate New York with her husband & daughter.