In the Butterfly House

—for Zemeri

Through double vestibule, we enter
jungle. Vines bloom their saturated glorias:
Firespike, Lantana, Jatropha Tree,
Pagoda Flower. My son, his solemn face
uplifted, cannot understand the reason
why the other visitors won’t whisper.
How could they come in and not acknowledge
the cathedral?

He stands, face upturned to watch as butterflies
kaleidoscope, drift through ferns toward
a plate of decomposing fruit where they settle,
drink fermented elegies of mango or papaya.
He yearns. If his wish were granted here, he’d be
a branch of something beautiful, a place they’d want to touch.
This afternoon, his every breath on tiptoe, he sees a girl, her face
in bloom as a Blue Moon skims her hair, alighting there.

For forty minutes, more, he tries to be a tree, tries to twine
himself to vine and root. I will a butterfly to him,
but not even one comes near. Slowly, his face falls, trampled
in the jostle of a field trip as it ricochets around him.
I have to hold my breath to keep from weeping. Yes,
I want to say, this is what it is. This is the grief of it,
the wait for what will sometimes never come.
I stay silent. If I brush the edges of his sadness, it might

steal his chance at flight. I stand beside him, think of all
the times I’ve tried to breathe myself to branch,
hoping that a moment might alight, might show me outer wings
with eyes of owls until they open into luminous. I know
his wish to witness this, submerge his shadow into stillness.
I know that ache of being close but never near enough
to catch what flutters in periphery: the winged shape,
its transience: that trembled resonance of light.