Sailing Lepidoptera

By Kelli Russell Agodon

Previously published in Small Knots (Cherry Grove Collections, 2004)

All morning we’d been discussing death.

I checked the field guide to know
it was the Spicebush Swallowtail that landed
in my hair and not the Mourning Cloak.
Maybe I’m superstitious,

but it was the same day I learned about families
in Ireland, their sweaters patterned to identify
sons and husbands–each unique stitch–in case
they drowned, a map of where to send the body.

We passed a garden of calla lilies.

The Mourning Cloak rested, wings
the color of storms, yellow lining the edges
of waves, blue crescent moons
sailing to the rim.

And I wondered if this is what the fishermen saw,

the ones who were pulled under–ocean
moving forward, slice of moon to the East,
bubbles of breath pulling upward
where sun should have been.