FICTION: Insect Group 3-23

Not a Pocket or a Door, Not a Renegade Shore

Freya’s Fritillary Butterfly

Larrys above, tawny-orange with strong black patterns of spots and bands. Larrys

below with tawny-orange frontals and reddish-brown or brown behinds, sometimes with yellow overlays, Larrys with white bars near their margins, sawtoothed reddish and white bands mid-wing disguises, with long white teeth in the center and large white marks on their costas and white arrowheads at their bases.

Finally a Freya and so Larrys spawned egg-like and tan, tiny, laid haphazardly upon host plants, the dwarf and alpine blueberry, the bearberry, the black crowberry. Grub-like baby Larrys browned, with cream-colored spots and many branching spines, overwintering nearly grown.

One seasonal chance to emerge in forest clearings, willow bogs, alpine valleys and arctic tundra. One or gone. Larrys emergent. Larrys insistent. Larrys crawling away and wrapped then rising, as if there were three distinct Larrys in each Larry.

Larrys from Alaska east to Baffin Island and Larrys in Newfoundland, south to northern Washington, New Mexico and Wisconsin. Clumps of Larrys scattered in northern Europe and Asia. Each Larry flees early, before the others, which is not possible but explains how the Larrys think.

Larrys found outside of bogs, where dwarf blueberry carpets the forest floor. Larrys from Lapland named for the Norse goddess of love and beauty. Confused Larrys regendered or perhaps only lately discovering.

Dust will gather eventually, frequently assigned to inertia and forgetfulness. Quite dedicated.

Larrys collisioned, a little less than forward now.

Out of my Larry life, I built another life. There’s a fullness I’ve never experienced in the things I noticed leaving.

Until I was one of the great pleasures I gave myself.


Anticipation Cooled, Falling North and Witnessed

Frigga’s Fritillary Butterfly

Orange above with black bars and spots, the whispering stockings of an ample-thighed matron. Dark scales at her base, but more dragon-like in demeanor. Uncovered, the legs are paler, dark brown at the base with golden-brown bands of suntan, the outer portions nearly a soft violet-gray. And the double white sunglass rectangle contains a dark dot near the base. Mole? Beauty mark? Provocation?

Once already, Kit has laid wild-born on arctic avens, and possibly there were wild raspberry too, as if in that landscape she thought they might feed on willows, roll up in a comfortable ball and wait for spring.

Here she released me in the willow bogs inside the coniferous forests the northern cold descends early, from Alaska to Quebec and Ontario, south to British Columbia, Colorado, Michigan. The homeland is holarctic: from Scandinavia all the way across northern Asia.

Kit’s quick but slower in cloudy weather. She appears to fly, but often can be caught basking with limbs spread on sunny days. Her husband Quincy (oh absent father) named her for the wife of the Norse God Odin then nicknamed her. She was always there for him, but he finally died of parental concerns. I register here my complaint for the way I’ve stolen myself away. Never again will I be so convicted, he bled, and Oh the fly that keeps landing and landing near the heart of what I’ve failed to do, he exclaimed before devolving.

When I, the younger, was still a message no one had received, I experienced from inside her bare foot instant with ants and the sudden floating height of their bites, which she encouraged until she could barely remove herself, the hems of the evening trailing as she finally rose and departed.

What do you do when unnoticed beneath your mother, half a dozen towhees are flickering and strutting through wet leaves? Do you know what it feels like to just wait to become dessert, to witness the hunger that knows not who you are?

When you consider it, you must already have left there or you could not. You could only grow and form and not think, as it should be, but suddenly there you are at never and always, and they arrive at each other as you do another, who must wait to break his small shell and crawl out.


Drinking a Bitter Potion of Leaves and Fairy Tale Twigs

Frosted Elfin Butterfly

Uncle Keenan’s too large for his family, a male gray-brown above, but oddly retaining the female reddish tone in patches. He has a long thin forward stigma, yet beneath and behind the colors do not greatly contrast, silver-gray dusting along his margins toward base overlays of chestnut- to gray-brown. He has a single obscure brown-black band that bisects his entire demeanor, but you can’t help but return to his short tail stump and checkered margins as you consider his more abstracted qualities.

Rumor has it Kennan was once a yellowish-green grub feeding upon fruit and the flowers of lupines and false indigo until he wove with loose thread a sleeping pouch in duff and leaf litter and slept all winter until spring awakened him.

Now Keenan can be found in open second growth woods, along roadside areas near his food source, and in the pine-barrens and open brushy fields of southeast Canada and New England, south all the way to the gulf states, and west to Michigan and Illinois. Despite his travels, he’s a weak explorer and merely colonizes with the visitors who find him engaging. Keenan followers are never abundant and usually remain quite local. He has become a type, and to be Keenaned has become acceptable but hardly admirable. He does not have the secret smile a piece of wood gives when something innocent needs beating. He does not attend the wedding dance of donkeys barely discernible from sleeping.

But one day the imitators of Keenan gathered spiritually, and the answer looked into us and saw fear and we ate it and it was each other and we spit us out squirming and squealing like good little worm children suddenly winged and still on the hook, unaware of how small every unimaginable death-lake would become.

Already this example, this day, is mistaken, and the next one too far away to come back. This is the repeated experience of Keenan waking. Tomorrow’s never close enough to be anything but inevitable, the anger never happy with itself or righteous.

If I tell you to make it even more beautiful, Keenan the Next, I know you’ll just shit in the lupine and false indigo and justify the cycle, dinner returning for breakfast and children parenting further children. Admit it. You want only to be more Keenan. I never thought I was writing about beauty and the problems it would cause if I ever found it.


You Should also Expect to Be Carefully Beaten Up or Down

Fulvia Checkerspot Butterfly

It’s a prison barbecue and its veins are blackening where you can see them, the outer part of gestures orange with a median band of yellow streaks as if the guests were on their way to road work. Something had bushed the drunken flailing, and a row of yellow spots has edged outward with black near the cloth-like margin of the caution jackets, orange marginal spots and a black line along that margin. The one male lifting is already black in his cell and at the base with cream-colored spots, his female orange with black smeared patches. A black “Y” tattoo or a “V” was added with a broken nail in the cell the last time he fell.

Off to the side as the gangs descend, Jo Jo and Snuffles are the ones who can just step aside and shut up if they want to. They never really know if they want to.

Grassy hills and hilly open Pinyon Pine and Juniper woodlands surround them, beyond the concertina wire, perched on limey soil with scrub oak thickets and moist canyons. For a moment they’re remembering their travels, Arizona east to southern Colorado, west Kansas and west Texas. They clustered with others on hilltops, uncommonly intimate, stayed close to Indian Paintbrush, blooming. The females seemed another species and Jo Jo begins describing his one success to Snuffles graphically, his victim’s cream-colored breasts (or were they soft eggs he wonders and doesn’t say), laid side by side under the leaves they had fallen into.

It seemed like decades later when a half-grown prison guard spent the winter reminding Jo Jo he could be his son. On the yard, where his childhood returned angry, Jo Jo remembered yellow, with thick black bands and spines. He thought about feeling suspended between a series of black bars and dots.

When a second prison guard began reminding him of potential fatherhoods, Jo Jo laughed, knowing they could both be right, dreaming of the Indian paintbrush that had kissed him until another Spring arrived, and he released himself from the decay that had kept him warm.


The Thought You Had About the River Is Also the River

Funereal Duskywing Butterfly

I am still very long and narrow, I’m often abbreviated. I’m rather square and patterned, I’m ahead of myself and plain above dark brown with blacker mottled markings across my frontal aspect. Often I appear almost uniform, a blackish-brown, my sisters lighter than my brothers, with the same buff spots above, small glassy white variations from costa to middle of their presentations.

Bramble Bob is the difference between a teacher and a bright green frog.

I told the leaves not to come back, and for a while they listened. My chest sleeps without stopping. Only in my own garden am I the truth.

Edna is greenish and younger, with distinctive yellow-spotted lines along her sides. She prefers woody and herbaceous legumes. That bitch is always eating. She’s closer than my sister.

Badger is the difference between nearly goosed and a little honky.

John John’s been caught erasing a moon-hungry moth.

The rest of the children sleep in green. They are named for their sober coloring, and wander far afield to colonize pioneer legumes such as vetch, lotus and alfalfa. They are common over a large range during more seasons than we know about. The mountains and their declivities call to them with pine, juniper, oak, moist valleys, prairie and rising desert edges. They hold their breath and refuse to swim. They are resting upon their backs and floating away from themselves. They may already be there where my weepy ignorance is the difference between impatient stars and the ceiling of a dream.

I felt the most, so they used me. I was not only myself.

Already a fresh ceiling has reached me. We must begin again.

Rich Ives has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press—poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books—stories) and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press—hybrid).

Image: Butterflies, Odilon Redon

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