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My Wife Returns as She Would Have It

by Bruce Boston

for Maureen
"I'd come back as a butterfly,"
she often told me, "a Monarch
or something equally as beautiful."
Eleven days after her death it happens.
I am walking a block from our house
when a quick flutter of velvet wings, 
dark against the pale dome of the sky,
passes left to right inches from my face,
causing me to pull up short in mid-stride.
Turning to the right I see a butterfly
has landed on the sidewalk at my feet.
Black and brown shadings striated by
vermilion bands, speckled with white.
(Not a Monarch but a Red Admiral,
I later discover in one of her books.)
"Is that you, sweetheart?" I whisper.
I am a fifty-six-year-old man suddenly
kneeling on the cement spilling out
his love and regrets to a lone insect
he hopes is a reincarnation of his wife.
Clearly as beautiful as any Monarch,
an epiphany of color in my flat world,
the butterfly appears to be listening.
Brilliantly hued wings shift slowly
up and down as if they sense the
coarse human sounds filling the air.
Even once language deserts me,
it/she remains a moment by my side
(together like partners after a dance!)
before soaring into a sky all-at-once blue,
vanishing into her future and my past,
alive and free as our finest memories.

(Appeared in Asimov's SF Magazine)


95th Weekly Poetry Contest