The Monarchs’ Release

by Hope Coulter

People call her the Butterfly Lady
and book her for classes and outings and talks.
She has dimpled cheeks, a long braid, 
and a sun porch filled with glass cases

of twigs, minuscule eggs on leaves,
caterpillars, and dry galls of chrysalides
that crack into insects that bloom into flags:
monarchs, splaying new wings in the sun.

I see a fourth-grade class, sprung from school
for a field trip. The children press in to learn
of the glittering scales of the wing, of migration,
of thousand-faceted, spherical eyes. They listen

to the manifold munching of caterpillars,
drop their own jaws in surprise. They jostle and vie
to help the Butterfly Lady by hoisting the cases,
three kids to a corner, trundling them out

the back door, down—a perilous tipping—
and into the sunny yard. The Butterfly Lady wades
through boys and girls like chest-high flowers, kneels
by the cages, and, like a magician removing a scarf,

lifts away the screen covers. “Make a wish!”
she says to the class. “According to legend
they’ll carry it straight to heaven.”
But the monarchs, released,

      do not fly skyward. They hover

   over the children’s foreheads—the wisps of hair
             around their faces, their brows
held studiedly still—
                    and float

            in the nearby,
foreshortened leaves:
saucers and blades of green,

                                     flowers like jaunty, delicate cups

fragrant trod plush of the grass.

Woman and pupils gaze
in chrysalides of wonder

This world. This world.

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