we live inside a hollow full of oaks and elms we live inside a hollow full of spokes and realms
that hold the light in a columned quiet space— of no light the quiet not quiet the space
a hollow full of wind-song and bird-caught clouds full of fog and one crow call loud
and the barred owl’s echoing questions to blanket another snuffed-out question
stay the chestnut doe whispers steal away we whispered
to her fawn shy and pied as our father died
star speckled salamanders slick banks slick cheeked we gave thanks
wide mouthed orchids drop to kiss moss he didn’t know anymore loss
once a bear wintered here in the dark of a log his eyes darkened each pupil a hollow log
soft snores becoming morning frost on the rim breath slowed the cold crept down each limb
in the very bottom this cup of land holds valleys crowfoot thick around eyes—each fold
a seep a muddy ooze a spring too small to sing draining the blue to gray to nothing
remember water carved this hollow so cup what color remains before it flows
to bear it back on the backs of bears and know he came back for one last stare
it is enough this touch of oak this comfort is it enough, this memory? and this fort
of elm this holy kinship enough of trees, this home—is it really enough?
Solstice. The sun stops to rest before the turning
back, while summer ticks along in the sweet practice
of sweat and flying flowers—azures and swallowtails,
sulfurs, skippers and nymphs, but no monarchs—that crown
is gone, pushed into a silent, star-studded night.
So I celebrate the Great Spangled Fritillary,
orange wings speckled with diamonds framed by rust.
One flies fast toward me and my sunflower-bright
shirt to light gentle on my chest, but when I look,
no butterfly tongue-taps the yellow cotton bloom
or sups salty skin. Fritillary flew through me.
What does it mean to have a butterfly inside?
Jim Minick is the author or editor of seven books, including the award-winning Fire Is Your Water (Ohio UP, 2017) and The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family (St. Martin’s, 2010). His work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, Orion, Oxford American, and The Sun. His newest book is Without Warning: The Tornado of Udall, Kansas, a nonfiction work (University of Nebraska Press, 2023).
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