1964 altered

Pink pearlescent cateye glasses
brought my second grade world into focus.
My waist-long braids had been recently cropped
to a more manageable chin length, but a cowlick
still influenced rebellious bangs.
Baby teeth gave way to huge replacements,
their odd angles foreshadowing future orthodontia.
Thanks to McCalls patterns and mom
my Brownie uniform was my only store-bought dress.

That summer I gathered
backyard caterpillars,
stuffing them into pickle-scented jars.
Fueled by daily rations of leaves,
larvae spun cocoons.
Before long, silken walls thinned,
revealing chrysalises folded inside –
a yellow and black swallowtail;
an orange-purple harvester; or a Southern
pearly eye, dusty white.
After emergence, the butterflies would
spread creased, damp-looking wings,
then flap them slowly, preparing for flight.
I would unscrew a nail-holed jar lid
setting beautiful, fragile creatures free.

Also that summer, using a net fashioned
from a coathanger and a cone of white tulle,
I caught butterflies, examined their colors
with great longing,
and set them free again.


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