by Yoko Danno


                          affinities between this butterfly
                          and me―an eternity for the insect
                          but a few-second stay on my palm
                          before i clap my hands in worship

The door bell rang, rang and rang. I reluctantly left my couch and made for the door, as if wading through water. I found nobody at the door except a large, black swallowtail fluttering away. I returned to my comfortable seat and took up the book I had been reading. The pages were blank, all the words gone. I couldn’t even remember exactly what I was reading. It must have been a book on a learn-while-sleeping method by a famous lepidopterist.

                          a swarm of butterflies flutter
                          in an illuminated glass dome,
                          light breaking into winged souls
                          in and out of the rose-wet grotto

In and out―I wasn’t escaping to somewhere but from something―in fear of being caught by a net. Out in the field children were chasing pollinators to pin them in insect cabinets―their summer homework. Every time a boy gave a shout of glee, long grasses trembled like nerve fibers, agitated, restless, as if mediated by the sweep of the net. I was kept alive in a glass cage together with other winged fellows―for eons. The door bell started ringing, louder and louder.

                          screaming i struggled to wake ―
                          i was one of a thousand butterflies
                          in an enormous LED light bulb,

                          my voice silently rising like bubbles

My eyes stopped at the margin of a blank page. A ravine was under my nose, and beyond, an overhanging cliff with a few low pines in the shapes of crouching animals. I sat in a chair placed on the grass-covered plateau and played the bass viol. The undertone echoed back like waves of hunger. The breeze felt salty as if coming from the sea. Somehow I thought of steamed-rice balls wrapped in thin sheets of dried seaweed, which I had prepared in the fridge, just in case.

                          the land shook, suddenly as before,
                          nymphs trembled, terracotta soldiers
                          guarding the underground palace
                          shaken in alarm―attention! forward!

The air was warm and humid. I strolled among palm trees , in an ecstasy, perfumed by orange and yellow tropical flowers. When I stood still, holding my breath, wishing the moment would last long, butterflies came to settle on my shoulders and on my palm, for honey. A bell started ringing again―the closing time of the butterfly farm. I had to leave the Shangri-la. On my way home I stumbled over a stone that had tumbled down the hillside. Yes, I realized, there had been, to be sure, an earthquake.

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