From the rain-glazed street I can see into a high window
where a papel picado banner spans someone’s apartment:
royal blue repeating in rectangles riddled with cutouts,
like constellation maps backlit with yellow light.
Sometimes this West Virginia town carries the soul
of a much larger city. I feel it most in the greenery
that grows in eddies of brick and cement—
that unexpected flourishing. This week
I received tulips twice, yellow then pink.
More things I won’t be able to keep alive.
Old wounds can always be reopened, it turns out.
I had choices and made them passively.
I’d like to be the color of the sky right now:
purple-gray. Thick with storm. But I would settle
for the pale pink of this potted tulip,
surrounded by paper birds on toothpicks in the soil.
Year of the Butterfly
I curated them—Tiger Swallowtails,
pale yellow and sharp-edged,
swarming down a dirt road after a rainstorm;
Silver-spotted Skippers bouncing on the July air
like stones across a lake of shimmering heat;
Pearl Crescents perched on warm rocks,
something erotic in the way they fanned
their burnt-sienna wings, then brought them flush.
In the thrift shop, a blue netted butterfly
clung to the edge of a custard handkerchief,
and I imagined it magicked to life,
little imago lifted on the air currents.
Among the old, water-rippled books:
Butterflies of North America waited for me
with wing diagrams in black ink,
blurred and bolded over time.
I pressed pigments, sunset coppers and pinks,
the shape of forewings, onto my eyelids. Flicked
the liner into the same curve as the black, empty veins.
The moon, I realized, was a Cabbage White all along,
and the roadside flowers—Viceroys.
My old hurt and grudges made a home in me
and I sheltered them, tiny eggs
on the underside of a leaf.
Long after their season was spent,
I caught sight of a few stragglers,
the frantic mating of Clouded Sulphurs
in the tall grasses, already orange with autumn;
Monarchs tossed in the rush of traffic
on their migration south; and a quivering cluster
of delicate feet and probing tongues
on a road-ripped carcass.
Natalie Homer’s recent poetry has been published in Puerto del Sol, American Literary Review, Four Way Review, Ruminate, Sou’wester, and others. She received an MFA from West Virginia University and lives in southwestern Pennsylvania. Her first collection, Under the Broom Tree, is just out from Autumn House Press.