All spring, the young girl tended the caterpillars.
Beneath the sprawling oak, her father
constructed a tent to keep them safe.
As they chewed the milkweed
to stems, she pinched tenderly each slender body
and placed them on new leaves.
After weeks of care, transplanting
eggs and larvae from the garden to the tent,
watching them spin
their glass nests, the butterflies emerge
deformed. Like an accordion,
one’s wings are wet wrinkles—
another’s, underdeveloped, protrude
at the thorax like pistachio shells, flapping
fruitlessly. Improvising a stretcher
from a dried oak leaf, her father transfers the flawed,
the parasitic, to the pentas
and snapdragons—he whispers I’m sorry
to each one as he lifts a piece of pine bark and
into their frail forms presses his weight.



Colin Bailes