Danaus gilippus

Queen butterfly

Nicole Broadhurst





                                                               Of the

                                                                                   Danaus gilippus, the Queen





50 sons dreamed genitalia, 50 drunk sons saw a cloud of butterflies crowding & dispersing & clouding,

a murmuration’s persistent puissance over dolphins’ scattered brine twittering

50 eyes held their salt as they moved to the government of beams & their hair blew blue in the

                                                                                                                                                  whitening moon

strung to sails, that these butterflies, born for sunlight & heavy Earth’s delight

opened softly brown.


                                     They couldn’t know it was the beginning, yet

                                                                                                               how purposefully

& long


they began their great responsibility of imitation: Home, & love

                                                                                                         are we like butterflies sometimes


this erratic thing

                              planes’ own landing sparklers in descent


making Him smile




                                                         as a deaf man’s child runs by not seeing him



                                                                                                         What do butterflies see?

                                                                                                                                         The endless camp


where smothered clefted detraction, life-long infarction, the caterpillar beholds light & dark



                                                                                                                       status as bee-hued tiger

does not invade,

                                                                                          stalking a leaf.

                                                                                                                   It takes off his or her helmet


to the sixth instar,

                                stepping out the shed of edible gowns. The adult takes nectar

birthed upside-down it sups on its old house in milkweeds,


                                                                                               an immaculate lantern


Adults take putrefaction, of liquefied deer, hide of burning rattler, all still-lifes’ nativity

transformed to women at last

                                                 only at knife-point: 49 sons sobered witnessed it.


                                                                                                                         One survived.



How long do butterflies live?


                                                Christ smiles at the question

                                                                                                  Longer than a city


Longer than the sea,

                                  but not longer than a fountain,

                                                                                     Whose veins palpitate


in the snowy stars to the border of the wood.

                                                                         The train shudders.


                                                                                                               Here come those panes where


the snow is fixed in sunset, the fluttering trees in blistering film come to swarm our knees,

                                                                                                                                               a print Van Gogh

    perhaps loved, our blanketed galaxy in a fork of trees, a meter of sepia sea


        the child entered



                                     Checkered skippers, the Red Admiral, Sara



Orangetip                                                                                                                           Mourning cloaks



the two-tailed swallow-tail

they rise from the fields


in the long hard shadows of leafless crowns



Royal blue

                    teeth & bones



there is a secret that emerges like a butterfly


if I knew what it was


I would tell you


as a worried child I put myself to sleep with




the uncontrollable emblem of silhouette

                                                                 pictures unfolding behind plastic










It’s August 11th which is another way to say it isn’t


                                                                                                  Despite the birds piping behind

the declaration.


Though we have paid to the day

                                                      with the mercuric loop

                                                                                                                                                   we were


never the maker of wings

our boat was not the first        whose sun-stalled ages twined





We wished you Monarch

                                            & all wedded to death what dancing before us cries



                                                                                                                        I was only hoping we could see



the boy-King together, whose dim & endless silence is theirs, the Sisters Danae


born for sunlight, & heavy earth’s delight


born for sunlight, & heavy Earth


for the absence of sleep & shadows is the world sun-filled drinking from flowers



& September is your birthday.





Nicole Broadhurst's work has appeared in Visions: International, The Miami Herald's Tropic Magazine, the University of Miami's Mangrove, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Maverick, Icarus, Mudlark, Kennesaw Review, Poet Lore, among others, & is forthcoming in 5_trope. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize she received The Eve of St. Agnes Award from Negative Capability.