The Lepidopterist’s Collection

The Lepidopterist’s Collection

Mine is a flimsy passion. Awe for false eyes.
Mothy deceptions. Zigzag symmetry.
A simple color-code: I may be toxic.

Mounting butterflies is tricky —
pinch lacy wings in stainless-steel forceps
and relax them. I have a ritual.
Listen to string quartets.
Block sunlight behind flowered drapes.
Square the mounting box. Set my lens
and study feelers, black outlines of veins,
the subtleties of abdominal sex.

I make up the names for labels.
My tawny satyr is Martyr.
The daggerwing goes by Switchblade.
Swordtail – Aurelia, a Flamenco dancer
who lifts her blue skirt to woo a gaucho
on horseback. Painted ladies are all Cynthias.
The mourning cloak is the Count’s Mina Harker.
Cautious work to do no harm to wingspans.

Bodies. More bodies. One day I quit. I blame spiracles,
those openings on the undersides. I can no longer tether
the dead who had so many ways to breathe.
The empty hole in my black mounting box? Cold Sweat.

They choose nectars as mainstays.
I am knife blade of witness.

[First published in Antiphon]

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