one lands on the tip of my nose,
another at my lip’s corner and
with the softest flutter of their wings
earthquakes unravel my chest.
cocoons hanging from my ribcage shutter,
caterpillars crawl up my throat,
an attempt to escape the collapse
one inevitable since the metamorphosis
began— a handful of eggs placed at my heart
by the hand of fate. Crackle
of lightning & the universe’s static
sends them roaring, beating
against the walls of my stomach, a frenzy
of fear & grief & cracks in the heart,
crevices for beer & wine to slip into,
and confusion, space for high haze,
& dark rooms alone, only me.
corals, persimmons, iridescent
sapphires & indigos pulse through me
when i see him. he says
they should migrate.
but he’s already clipped their wings.
he holds the jar close to me & i peer in.
the monarch lays lifeless at the bottom,
its body no longer brittle, but relaxed
by moist cotton & spring scented lysol.
the sight churns my insides & i feel
cold. he removes the lid, tilts the jar to me
pinch the thorax gently, then push the pin through.
my hands shake & i wish to cradle, wish
to breathe life back into speckled tangerine.
but pinch, pin slides through, & i place
her next to glasswing, alexandra, adonis.
more pins are dropped in my palm, he
& i work together to smooth wings, attach
them to greying white mounting board.
when he is satisfied with their positions,
i can see them twitch, uncomfortable,
unsatisfied with the change in winds.
we leave them this way, return later to pluck
out pins & put the rainbow into its shadowbox.
no more stomach aches. this is for the best.
he musters a smile so i do the same, but glass
catches our reflections & produces palindromes.
migration always happens twice
do you want to kiss?
the question brushes my ear with surprise.
but then i smile & oblige, once, twice, three times.
before & after this, his lashes meet my cheeks,
& mine brush his. intimacy & warmth clear
away the storm, & heat rushes to my face.
my heart pulls itself back together, pounds
until glass breaks &
here comes a thought—
luminescent pulse lands on my shoulder
& my eyes are water-pricked, worry
begins to riddle my ribcage & gut.
i remember how it swarmed inside & out
of me, brought everything to crumble.
is this how we fall apart?
he slips a finger under the legs, the wings
now flutter on him, calmly. he holds it
between us & i remember the pain
& the change & the now. glow lifts
from digit & we watch it go by. i crumple
in his arms & he squeezes me tight.
it’s ok, i’m here. i’m here.
our flame ascension reaches its end.
we begin again