Under the Lights

I open my mouth and imagine butterflies are going to fly out

that inside me are flocks of brilliant monarchs that have struggled

to hatch and pupate and transform into brilliance for years. 

I command these butterflies to fly out of me, through my open mouth,

to burst through my skin in brilliant flocks of black-tipped wings and rainbows. 

I can almost feel them inside me, encourage them 

to force their way through my body, through my skin

can almost feel their tiny claws struggling to find purchase

along the slick, wet meat inside my chest. 

Nothing comes out and I am empty, I don’t understand

why the room isn’t filled with rainbow-tinted butterflies

why there aren’t sparkling clouds of wings filling the room 

obscuring the quiet crowd before me. I was sure there was something

better inside of me than what could be seen through my skin. The audience

stares at me in impatient confusion from rows of folded metal chairs

they came here to see me do something special

they came to see something wonderful, or just something. 

The butterflies I thought would carry this performance 

die just short of emerging, perhaps suffocated by doubt

or just unable to find a clear path out. 

Poem by Holly Day

Art by William Crawford