originally published 2010
A girl is found by the highway
two towns over from ours. If her hair
was knotted with
brown blood and thorns the
police report didn't say. I killed a
butterfly and rubbed the color from its wings, the saddest shade
of magenta I've ever touched,
and I'm thinking of the tiniest grass cuts
on my shins and mud beneath my nails
and the top of the world after dark--
the highest hill in town where we swear, with
held breaths, that a bus driver drove
a school bus full of weeping, screaming, or, maybe, laughing children
off the cliff. Say, with held breaths, listen
for their laughter on the leaves
of trees we will never learn the names of.
The leaves are changing and I name
this season Orange.
Remember what they say about hindsight.
The girl they found regrets not
wearing clean underwear that day
and peeking when they kissed
for the first time in the linen closet.
Only because he opened his eyes, too.
Her mother doesn't stop crying
for three weeks--
until she starts to laugh.
You have to understand,
I killed the butterfly because I thought
it was a moth.
Or, I didn't know it would die
I carried it into the house
and by the kitchen, it was dead.
I wanted to lick the dust from its wings, but
you came inside
and I forgot.
I have also forgotten about the girl when I'm driving down highway five
and see a cross on the side of the road;
got out of the car and shut my eyes
and laid down in the dirt.
The cross of flowers looked blurred, like
fireworks, when I peeked through matted
eyelashes. The worst case of child
abuse known: the girl
bit through her own lip
to stand the pain. I bite down on my lip 'til blood.
I wake to a police officer
dusting dirt from my hair.
Homebound, I remember the way the butterfly
struggled against my hand,
wings like a heartbeat in my closed palm, like a
seizure, a rain dance, a swerving bus and its