Because of the delicacy of the wing structure, use correct equipment to catch the butterfly without damaging it. The wings must remain connected to the dead insect: touching them is avoided by handling the body instead. Then, grasp its thorax between your thumb and forefinger and pinch it. This will stun it, causing it to relax its wings. Or place it, wings folded on its back, in a paper envelope with mothballs, or in a plastic bag in the freezer.

After the specimen is dead and dried, place it into a “resting jar” with a folded, damp paper towel at the bottom to provide humidity. Add a capful of Listerine or Pine-Sol to inhibit mould. Cover, and allow three to seven days. Gently manipulate the wings to determine when they are flexible. If still rigid, return the specimen to the relaxing chamber until the thorax is slightly soft and the wings move freely.

Pierce with a long, thin straight pin through the middle of the thorax until 1/4 of the pin is left on top; gently open and spread wings with a small pair of forceps. Pin the butterfly upside down, making sure the wings lay flat. Place a pin on either side of the abdomen to stabilize it while working on the wings…

You were the most beautiful creature;
you always were.
Everybody agreed about that.

I thought you were my beautiful creature,
and the human with the big net
believed you were his.

You laid no claim
to your own beauty;
to you, only the winter cress was beautiful.

It wasn’t actually your wings
that wowed me so.
It was the perky gaiety of your antennae:

stiff,
striped black and white
with golden tips that matched your scales.

    I was there.
I watched as the human came and saw you,
ran to capture you

as grasshoppers flung themselves
to either side
and a hummingbird zipped off in a blink.

    I saw your dance
and saw the human dance,
saw mother Sun beam down approvingly.

But he ignored our rites:
pinched your wings together carelessly,
then lay you in the middle pages

of a big old textbook, simply closed it,
pressed it over you
without so much as a tip of his cap,

without even looking you up
in Peterson’s.
    I saw

him bring his net outside again
to search for more,
but not even a drab zale volunteered.

I contemplated flying out.
I thought I might wind up
in that same book, on that same page— 

grief talking, really—
Funerary methodology’s less pivotal
than pangs of love—

but in the end, I couldn’t bring myself.
You would have, though.
That was exactly how you were.


 A PoetryCircle editor for several years, Tom lives with his family in New Jersey and has worked mostly in restaurants and schools.


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Tom Riordan lives in New Jersey. He’s a retired restaurant worker and teacher, and dreams about becoming pope for his next career.

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