Butterfly in My Pocket

The monarch butterfly was lying stiff, wings tightly closed. The day was cold and it was in the shade. I crossed the path to check on it. There was no movement; it must be dead. I picked it up, handling it carefully so I wouldn’t damage the wings. Its feet clung to my hand. Was it not dead? Or were butterfly feet just sticky, even in death? Still, I couldn’t leave it there on the ground, where it would be trampled. I would show it to my students— except I had no students anymore.

I carried it carefully in my open palm. It remained still and stiff, so I put it gently into my jacket pocket. When I reached in later, I felt a flutter. Peeking into my pocket, I saw that the butterfly had opened its wings a bit and was moving around. But I wasn’t ready to let the butterfly go, not just yet. I placed it carefully in the gym bag I was carrying, where it could perch more comfortably atop my towel, then I tightened the top. Not enough to keep it from flying if it really wanted, but a bit, to tell it I’d rather it stayed.

As soon as I came home, I took the butterfly to the backyard, where I had planted milkweed to lure monarchs, although no butterflies laid eggs this year. I put down the bag and picked up the butterfly by its wings, as I had been taught and in turn taught my students. It did not resist. I placed it gently on a milkweed flower and it fluttered as if to fly away. But then it settled instead on the milkweed and spread its wings in the noonday sun.

After lunch, when I went to check, it had flown away. Just as my students had done. Warmed and ready to be on their own.

Midi is a retired teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. She wrote her first stories and poems at age seven and has never stopped. She writes children’s stories, fairy tales and poems and has had essays published in the Berkeley Monthly’s Observer Column. She also loves Ospreys and writes about them on the blog page, “Fly with the Osprey.” www.poetsinthegarden.com