“Monarchs” by Caryn Lazzuri

Caryn Lazzuri


The edge of your brain opened underwater
when the riptide drug you past the breakers.

I could see you from the shore; your drowning
was slow motion, a paper butterfly buffeted

by wind. But then the ocean burped you up.
You swam in, exhausted. When we woke

in the morning, the monarchs were migrating,
thousands of them alighting on rafters

along the shore of Cape May. I had thought
of your helpless arms as wings, but I know now

those insects are machines—determined mass
of whispering, nothing at all like paper.

Not at all like drowning. Indelicate,
and terrifying, they rage forward in a silent swarm

as if the going home were no journey, no survival,
but the one thing they were made for.

from Rattle 29, Summer 2008


Caryn Lazzuri: “When I was a child, I used to wonder where the butterflies went when it rained. Rafters, I was told. I spent years looking under things in storms, and never found a Monarch or a Swallowtail, just a desire to come up with my own answers, to create something that sounded more real than the truth.”

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