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Jessica Purdy

Monarch at the Telescope


The butterfly floats, ignores

the steel observatory dome

in a September blue as water.

Consider the orange and black

stained-glass of her wings.

How she won’t stop, can’t

stop to put her ommatidia

to the telescope eyepiece.


If she did, her omnivision

would show her a moon

like orbital bone. The eye socket,

pocket wrench metal, pitiless.

Instead, her proboscis

tends to a mud puddle that

could have pooled in a buried

pelvis. Her distracted mind.


She is like a scissor—

origami—as she beats

her hinged hips. Her wings slip

in delicious sky to join more

of her kind—a bivouac, a rusty

roost in the paralyzed cold

of her nights as she runs away

yes, to Mexico.


She has felt the loose dress

of childhood tighten against

her girth and she has fastened

her hook to an eye of milkweed

like an open air uterus, unzipped

from her exoskeleton like

an autopsy incision. Eaten

herself poisonous. She has


told me not to come near.

It seems like years she spent

never knowing that I’d be thinking of her

when I sit by the firepit poking at ashes—

an old door having burned away from a red-hot hinge.





I reach out and fold myself in half. I roam back and forth, a metronome. My head weaving, weaving, waving. A baby’s finger stroking silk. When we dream do we twitch from the story unfolding inside our bodies? Or are we finding where our bodies will fit? Exploring the world through fingertip ESP. Even fetuses dream without having been anywhere else. A mime in a box. I put my feet where my head was. Prep for the dance.


My dream daughter wades deep into water as if she could breathe amniotic fluid again. No backtracking. She must be holding her breath as I watch her, holding my breath. I’ve never seen her navigate in so much terrain. Rocks and water, stairs and bridges, never stopping, and the fear speeds up the heart, speeds up the footage, until it’s me who is moving, submerged and dripping. I’m folding something flat with bells attached. Something for a holiday, a big enough tradition to take up both arms.


I’ve stopped eating and begun searching for a snug place to take hold. My body greening, alchemy of transformation into gold. Shrinking, my cells bunching and liquefying, I search and search. How long have I been looking? How big is this world? Will my body be a measure? Will my own arms fold in on themselves? After every love has passed through them and I become willing. Loose myself to the risk of transparent ceiling, knowing my sky will open and give me the clouds my arms inherited.


I’ve landed in life as if a pinpoint, a pushpin on a map. I’m touched and I’ve punctured the webbing. Is it so obvious what my instincts are from my behavior? My skin the green and black stripes of shadows, gold and white of the sun. My skin hides me from any understanding—temporary camouflage. My hairs fall out of my head and tickle my arms. I wriggle out of the old false casings that seemed so true. I’m a fingertip inside a clear shell meant for escape, breakage, shattering.






I’m happy enough in my own yard except when I have to power wash the yellow aphids off the milkweed. The flies eating their honeydew. Leaves turned leathery and dirt-shine with an aching sheen. Who am I to choose which bugs get to live? I worry over the monarch larva and pupa. Marvel at how coolly they transform. It’s not like they are unhappy in their original suits. At the fashion show the pins still stick sometimes minutes before the catwalk. The longest legs of the twelve-year-old girl don’t want to stop lengthening. The growing pains in her shins. Her quadraceps the distance to Venus. Even now when the heat coaxes the red out of the green tomatoes I know we’re on another cusp. What kinds of signs point to enough? I’ve bound myself to the underside. A flying insect hit me on the arm when I was walking. I’m just trying to live alongside characters. Hang like the letter J until my muscles contract. As if they’ll care for me when my knobs need grease. As if I can be sure they’ll stay beside me just because I worry. Re-attach me if I fall.



Jessica Purdy holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Her poems and flash fiction have appeared in many journals including Litro, Gone Lawn, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Museum of Americana, Gargoyle, as well as Hole in the Head Review. Her books STARLAND and Sleep in a Strange House were released by Nixes Mate in 2017 and 2018. Her two recent chapbooks are The Adorable Knife, poems based on The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death (Grey Book Press), and You’re Never the Same: Ekphrastic Poems (Seven Kitchens Press). Follow her on Twitter @JessicaPurdy123 and her website:


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