from Tracing the Movements of Butterflies                          


The emergent butterfly has no idea

that at one time six

legs were inadequate to support

its long frame.



Movement 1


There is a famous old saying that to make hare stew

it is first necessary to catch your hare.


Teivah waits for the bus at the corner outside her apartment.

She makes lists in her head while she watches people walk by,

decides to call her son when she gets home that afternoon.


The bus arrives and she is swallowed


like a slippery fish into the ocean of late morning,

whole, pure.



When he goes to his swimming lesson,

it takes Jacob a few extra minutes

to practise his jump from the highest


diving board. The teacher

is watching him. He closes his eyes,

pressing his thighs together before he throws


his body into the water.



Movement 2


A slow-flying coastal species, readily captured.


Sometimes, after dinner, Jacob plays his father’s

Klezmer records to the tune of dead butterflies jumping off the page.

After his mother has put them to sleep and he lies


 listening to his sister snoring and

watches the moonlight come in through his window,

He sees Teivah, the old Russian woman

who lives on the other side of his building.


He watches her shift back and forth on her fat wobbly legs

when her light is on and his is off

and imagines that she is dancing to Jewish Soul Music.


In this stop-motion light,

Her body and Jacob’s butterflies overlap like slides.




Movement 3


 The hindwing has a well-developed fold to enwrap and protect its body.


Teivah eats breakfast at her kitchen table with a picture that slowly moves across her mind

of her son and his young, bearded American friends laughing over dinner. She imagines their apartment: small, dark and cold, its walls barely holding up the ceiling.


Teivah takes out her book to write:

Suitcase, knapsack, handbag, box: what you put things in

Luggage: what you take with you


Clock says quarter after ten. The day stretches out like dough

before her.



Hebrew Sesame Street is playing in the kitchen; Jacob’s mother runs past him

late for work. She doesn’t say goodbye just remember

to lock the door this time. This is like a rope


and each word pulls Jacob further away.





Movement 4

The butterflies move slowly, leisurely, as though to taunt their predatory foes.

Jacob watches the swallow move

from branch to branch on their back balcony. His mother

sits at the white plastic picnic table,

sipping a lemonade and smoking a cigarette.


They have eyes in the back of their heads you know.


- Ariella Cepelinski