“The Color of a Butterfly’s Wing” by Mark A. Lipowicz

Mark A. Lipowicz


A silica grain flowers into boulder, continent,
as he zooms in with his microscope.
The man’s apartment view takes in
the building opposite, a woman in a business suit
leaving at her usual time, a letter in her hand.
She has never seen him in his wheelchair
at the window. As she reads she steps around dog shit,
touches her eyelid with her thumb and index finger.

What did it take to make her cry?
He wishes he could catch her tear
on a slide, magnify it, prove it holds no pain,
a tear of laughter, sleep, is the same water and salt.

The TV documents the start of a hundred years’
war, promises a talent contest after. He would prefer
the view from an airplane window, flying to some
coast resort over mountains, glaciers. Above the pass,
geese fly in vee formation, when one drops out,
the others focus harder on the wing ahead.

In a faded photo taken by his ex, the man
is standing on two legs, a smile on his face,
before a wave rose up, a freak, and smashed him
on a rock. Saltwater dripped off his face as he
waited for help. He thought of a bedtime story
his mother told, about a butterfly who flew to Mexico.

A monarch mounted on a pin displays her black
and orange wings. The man adjusts the blinds
to keep the sun off her back, imagines walking
on the beach with a pretty girl in an orange dress,
a conversation about alchemists, the way they mixed
philosophy and science, imagined gold in lead.

He would turn salt to diamonds, but the only science
he knows is for explosive formulas, diagnoses,
flowers’ names. Butterflies prefer the pink
and purple blooms like zinnia and lavender.
He could analyze the residue of nectar
on his desiccated specimen, find Sweet William, sugar.

He thinks about that beach, flying there in an aluminum tube.
If the rudder fails, the plane goes down,
he’d rather be alone, look out across the wing
at spinning sky, at shore and beach and sand.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

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