April 26, 2014

Barbara Presnell

At the Butterfly Garden

We have just come through the double
entry doors when a scalloped lacewing
settles on my son’s shoulder and pauses,
his wings opening and closing like hello.
My son laughs, offers his thumb as a stoop,
but the lacewing lifts into the bougainvillea,
circles among pink blossoms, and is lost
in the ordinariness of this extraordinary enclosure.
I have come for the long weekend to the Florida home
my son shares with the woman he loves, their affection
made strong by distance and years and now
the constancy of every day. After a breakfast
of eggs and red oranges, we idle here among
teal and yellow finches, palm-sized hummingbirds
with beaks the size of fingers, lorikeets
that land on our arms and feed from our hands.
Tigers, blue morphos, zebras, daggerwings,
and swallowtails crisscross in soft threads.
We witness the emergence of a red piano key
from his crusty pupa, damp wings unfolding.
There is no hurry here in the gardens. Other families
visiting this tropical world weave easily along paths,
as amazed as we are by small miracles
of transformation. When I slow to study
the passion flowers, my son walks ahead,
his arm at her waist, sometimes brushing
a cheek, a misplaced hair, sometimes glancing 
back to where I follow at a distance.

Barbara Presnell’s poetry collection, Piece Work, won the 2006 Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s First Book Prize, was published by CSU in 2007, and adapted to stage by the Touring Theatre of North Carolina. She’s published poems in Connotation Press, storySouth, The Southern Review, Cimarron Review, Laurel Review, and other journals and anthologies.

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