Dead ButterflyBy Ellen BassFor months my daughter carried a dead monarch in a quart mason jar. To and from school in her backpack, to her only friend’s house. At the dinner table it sat like a guest alongside the pot roast. She took it to bed, propped by her pillow. Was it the year her brother was born? Was this her own too-fragile baby that had lived—so briefly—in its glassed world? Or the year she refused to go to her father’s house? Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there? This plump child in her rolled-down socks I sometimes wanted to haul back inside me and carry safe again. What was her fierce commitment? I never understood. We just lived with the dead winged thing as part of her, as part of us, weightless in its heavy jar.
If You KnewWhat if you knew you'd be the lastto touch someone?If you were taking tickets, for example,at the theater, tearing them,giving back the ragged stubs,you might take care to touch that palmbrush your fingertipsalong the lifeline's crease.When a man pulls his wheeled suitcasetoo slowly through the airport, whenthe car in front of me doesn't signal,when the clerk at the pharmacywon't say thank you, I don't rememberthey're going to die.A friend told me she'd been with her aunt.They'd just had lunch and the waiter,a young gay man with plum black eyes,joked as he served the coffee, kissedher aunt's powdered cheek when they left.Then they walked half a block and her auntdropped dead on the sidewalk.How close does the dragon's spumehave to come? How wide does the crackin heaven have to split?What would people look likeif we could see them as they are,soaked in honey, stung and swollen,reckless, pinned against time?