I won’t feign to know the flight patterns of butterflies.
When I was six, my mother gave me an insect catcher,
a Lilliputian tent to trap and confine. Endless summers
I spent roaming our square acre, sprinting after Monarchs
as they jerked like drunkards towards the neon sky. But a tent,
those can only do so much. Wings make you quick,
so fingers work much better,
and grass stained, shining with sweat.
I’d like to believe when I ripped off the orange-black
butterfly’s wing it was a mistake–I want
to believe it kept soaring high, a little crooked
and only half emptied of grace, untouchable. Forgetting
the stolen wing in my palm,
or maybe we never forget. Maybe they never forget.
Thirty years later on the California backroads
it came back, this time
in droves, in herds,
blackened flurries like an anarchic snowstorm. It was the heat
of summer and still
I barreled through throngs of wings for miles,
bodies crushed onto windshield, streaks of neon
amidst the dark. Not once did I stop as the corpses piled up,
not once did I slow down
never did I falter to look
and breathe in all the destruction I can cause, all
that I’m capable of.
About the Author
As an indigenous woman and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, much of Jessica Mehta’s work reflects place, space, ancestry, and lineage. Recent accomplishments include the 2020 Birdy Prize by Meadowlark Books (for what will be my 14th book), a 2020 gold award for her poetry collection “Savagery,” and her solo exhibition “emBODY poetry” at Open Signal New Media in Portland, OR. Her CV and bibliography is heavy and ample to spilling over, but if you’d like to learn more you can find her on Twitter @CherokeeRoseUp, IG @thisCherokeeRose, or check out her author site at http://www.jessicamehta.com for links to books, a documentary on my life and work by Osiyo Television, and much more.