The National Poetry Review

Janine Certo

AFTER RESCUING THE DYING BUTTERFLY FROM MY SIDEWALK

The woman at the Wildlife
Rehabilitation Center
put me on hold,

came back to say
don’t bother. Would be dead
in two to six weeks.

I picked it out of the shoebox:
head, thorax & abdomen
tilted over, a sailboat

with a torn jib. Immobile
like this, the neighbor’s cat
would come

or Michigan’s harsh winds
& rain would beat it down
until it drowned. So I gently

pinched its wings, trimmed
the black margins
until both wings

were even-sized. I clipped
paper the size of the damaged
spot, dabbed glue on the repair site,

& considered my foolish
stubbornness as I applied
powder, its legs still kicking.

In the garden beds,
my monarch slipped
down a stick, labored

to open its new wings,
& just when I thought
the effort failed, it flew away.

How long of a life
would it take to matter?
How many of us travel roads

before rigs shift gears
surrounding us like barricades
with their diesel & cargo;

or keep away from water for the scratch
of blood coral, the brush of a ray?
We board up windows to stave

off hurricanes that tumble
at us like hay bales
or avoid the atmosphere

unexplored, never booking
the morning’s first flight.
I want to know the symmetry

of a monarch,
how it enjoys this sweet
bright life full of heartbeat

& memory, as if
there would always
be milkweed & an infinite
variety of flowers.


JANINE CERTO is author of In the Corner of the Living, first runner-up for the 2017 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, Italian Americana, and elsewhere. She teaches at Michigan State University and lives in East Lansing, Michigan. Visit her website at https://certojl.wixsite.com/mysite.

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