a butterfly


where the salt is

the sweat

from skin

when i was eighteen you and i bought monarch caterpillars off the internet

they came in a jar, packed next to their own food

they were fat, little, striped green and black

for days, we watched them crawl around a mesh tent that had been sent to us

one day you called me over to see that they had all turned into pupae

green jade hanging from the ceiling of the tent

annie dillard describes a moth emerging from its chrysalis—hot, she says it was

shaking in her hands

the ruined moth didn’t have enough room to spread its wings, they hardened, crystallized

you want to trust a living thing, sometimes you try to touch it

the butterflies emerged, one at a time, none of them dead

they fluttered around the mesh tent, we felt sorry, we unzipped it and they careened

around your dorm

knocking against

the windows

a butterfly


where the salt is


the sweat

from skin

i put my hand out and they landed


bristly body tiny legs

very light

i thought i was magic, that they loved me

you want an animal to trust you, don’t you?

it wasn’t love but they ate

we didn’t know how else to feed them

we didn’t think of letting them go

when they died

because of course they died

because everything dies

we kept their bodies intact

and used them in art

you took pictures of me

the scales
came off in my hands

little dust

like something from a distant planet

and then what—

i forget what happened

we grew up

and distant

we got
hot and away from each other

you live somewhere else now

i live somewhere else too

Larissa Pham 2017