Iron Butterflies

poetic_star's picture

*inspired by Richard Siken's poetry

Daybreak was smeared across
the upstairs window like
frosting on a week old cake.
I woke up with the feel of
your august fingers on my temples,
rubbing circles the way
you used to do when I was nervous.
It was comforting then
but now it haunts me.
Jamie, I'm mad at myself
for dreaming of ghosts
and maroon sweaters.

It only means that I'm dwelling on this,
on the shadow that you left behind,
living inside its cold attic chest,
breathing out stale carnations
through silvery lungs.

I miss you, Jamie.
I miss the iron butterflies
you used to paint
across the still barren
walls of our new house
on Olivia Drive.
Those creatures used
to resurrect at night
and excite me with
the fluttering of their
trans-Atlantic wings.

You laughed when
I rolled up the carpet
and suggested we dance
on my birthday after
everyone had gone home.
You said I could have anything
and that's what I wanted most;
a private moment with you in my arms
and a song, preferably "You and Me"
playing lazily in the background.
I didn't care how inappropriate
or cliche it was and after awhile,
you said it wasn't so bad,
resting your head on my shoulder.

The black tabby perched on the armchair
watched us with quiet boredom as you
nuzzled your face in my neck and
I knew what was going to happen next
but still I tightened my grip
around your waist when
your lips found my mouth.

Jamie, you were a touch
of molasses hair and sharp features
standing under the porch light,
then a sad smile on a hospital bed.
Still, I didn't believe it,
didn't believe your
loose grip on my hand
or the mumbled words
you tried to make me understand
in vain just before
your body became sedated and
your voice grew farther away.

The nurse gave me your sweater
and I breathed in the memory of
American candy and pine needles.
Jamie, you always talked about
driving to Mississippi,
seeing all that green,
and how it must resemble paradise.
Remember, too, how
you said that open road could be
the perfect spot to
tell someone they mattered?

Well, here I am, Jamie,
with both hands on the wheel,
facing green, yellow and black ahead..
Also, there's a lot of blue out there.
You would've liked that.
But you're not here,
sitting beside me and
I'm left with just faded
pictures of your eyes;
teal and brimming over
with confidence and Neruda poems.

I let my tears come out of hiding
and descend freely down my cheeks
because you can't
take them away from me, Jamie.
I'm allowed to miss you,
to want you now in this
hour between a racist sunset
and these beautiful trees with
moss hanging from them like
wedding veils coming
undone at the seams.

I don't care if it's dumb.
Jamie, I need a minute.
And you're just going to have
to swallow my fear like
the way the washboard sky
swallows your name; whole and sweet.


Bosemaster42's picture


Very sad too, but I love the way you present it. Siken would appreciate this one.

poetic_star's picture

ha, I doubt it. Siken's a

ha, I doubt it. Siken's a genius :P but thanks, honey!