2018 Poetry Competition joint winner: “The Butterfly and the Stone” by Elisabeth Sennitt Clough

 

i

 

his body is a tomb formed of glacial till & houses centuries of ice

 

she rests on the large grey boulder of him

her wings appear as if they’ve been dipped in the earth 

& their tips are the smudges of frost moons

her legs quiver like hairs in the breeze

 

he wakes to something brushing the back of his neck 

 

the butterfly does not mistake him for a flower

she’s just looking for somewhere safe to land in the breeze

her colours pulsate against the grey backdrop of him

the boulder stirs as the butterfly drums her feet

 

his shoulder is hinged with a fleck of colour

 

the boulder does not think the butterfly beautiful

the boulder does not think the butterfly delicate

the boulder does not think the butterfly graceful

the boulder is not capable of thought

 

with time the mouths of rocks break open

 

the butterfly becomes stuck to his granular surface

she beats her wings until they grow tired & wither

after a day the butterfly slips from the boulder

& submits to a large hole on the boulder’s far side

 

his throat becomes a corridor of shudders

 

ii

 

while he sleeps my wings open to night

they break apart & shed their decades

of marital dust onto the bedroom floor 

the breeze licks clean my back 

& my face    

is no longer pressed into stone

 

as he stirs my wings beat against his dark  

curtains & try to source the air beyond

but i fall between furniture 

  & my body bristles 

against the rough-textured oak  

for a moment 

my strength is that of a dozen winged creatures

yet his touch transforms me

into iciness as he leans across 

reseals the thin envelope of my body

 

his mouth twitches as if in prayer 

when he closes me with his tongue

 

iii

 

the season is stripped of colour

each petal withered on the stone path 

& slashed like a dead butterfly’s wings

  

he tells me that wounds are openings 

through which we lose small parts of ourselves

 

by the roadside the damask roses   

shake their blown heads 

 

i have a jar he says to preserve

each piece of you 

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