This Monday I thought my computer might have screwed the pooch. I pulled up my Goodreads page (which makes me feel almost like I’m in a library, so it’s a regular practice) and clicked on a new message from the moderator of their monthly poetry contest.
The Goodreads Poetry Contest selects six finalists every month out of thousands of submitted poems. I’ve entered a few times before but, unsurprisingly, didn’t get very far.
So this Monday when I scrolled curiously through the finalists and saw my poem I thought that there was some sort of glitch on the Goodreads server. I clicked through to the voting page and saw that, indeed, my poem “Butterfly Box” was listed.
So, I a little bit lost my shit.
I’ve always had an interest in poetry, and won a few places in children’s anthologies in grade school- but never a contest where someone might mistake me for *gasp* a professional.
My mother, sister, me
we kept a box of wings.
Whenever we found
a butterfly fluttering furiously
on the sidewalk, would
gently cradle it in
the cracks between our fingers
until it died.
We touched the wilting cake
of the butterflies detached wing,
rubbed off yellow
then put it away in the box.
Dad keeps on being capitalized
forever and ever.
Until his voicemail drops from my
phone- or I,
drunk, drop my phone
in a puddle,
and ever after that
the many dead flies
twenty years later.
reminds me, that
Violent yellow blemishes on our fingertips.
We, sifting grey ash with bits of white
bone out of a clear sack,
onto the ocean surface
discordant with stargazer lilies.
Dust snifting up the nose,
surfacing on the seafoam.
Dust in the cold harbor
where we left you.
I’m in my first semester of any sort of formal instruction on poetry, so the honor looms large.
This particular version I revised about eight times. I’ve never really revised ANY sort of poetry before, so it was a learning experience to question my original word choice- to consider whether I had used the correct terminology, if I had gone deep enough, or if it even made sense to anyone but me.
(This, I’ve learned, is a big no-no, even in poetry- unless you want to be a confessional archetype)
This particular poem is about death, nostalgia and my father- and the disillusionment I’ve faced in the months after his death.
There is nothing that will break you apart quite like the death of half your sky.
For the first time in my life, despite numerous hardships in my youth and adolescence that brought me close, if not slightly over, the edge, I could say that something had actually killed me.
Something that was a part of me died when my father did, and I’m still searching for what that was, and whether it’s still here or somewhere close by. This search extends to my father, who I’m still constantly looking for.
Hot tip: Try to die before anyone you love goes.