If you’ve never visited a butterfly farm, this week’s poem brings one to you in all its slightly ridiculous “exotica” and beauty. Apart from the final question that it puts to us, the poem is itself one carefully created small world of a sentence filled with “gaud and glitter.”

Richard Foerster is the author of seven books, including his most recent, “River Road” (Texas Review Press, 2015). He lives in Eliot and has won many awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maine Arts Commission.

Butterfly Farm

By Richard Foerster

A bit absurd perhaps-these exotica of steam-

ing jungles under the artifice of a Quonset sky

but they know no better, content to flit the narrow

air and sip through straws the sweet decay

of citrus rind the “farmer” leaves for them,

or mate in mid-air and dot the hothouse

flora with indiscriminate progeny-

and yet we succumb to the paradisiacal

gaud and glitter of them winging everywhere:

their lepid latticing and iridescent powders

fired like oxides to the extremes of blue

and green, the cryptic Greekness

of their names hinged to the near-

forgotten mythos of meaning-morpho,

helicon, kallima-kited in this fragile space

for our delight. How else could we hold

the wholeness of them, the ephemeral

lesson of their lives?

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1998 Richard Foerster. It appears in Trillium (BOA Editions, Ltd, 1998) and appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to www.pressherald.com/tag/deep-water.

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