I once found a deer collapsed near a lake—sleek,
immaculate, & unmoving except for its antlers, which swarmed
with orange-&-black-speckled butterflies that obliterated
the velvet beneath. Whatever word explains this,
I don’t want to know it yet.
The thorax needs to reach 59 degrees for wing-muscle to take flight.
Angle the thorax toward the morning sun, fold and unfold wings, body at rest
and wait. During migration, find branches and rest in company.
Obliterate what you land on. Fold and unfold wings. The hinge is perfect.
The ornament of wings is more than we can bear. Fold: a prayer, asking
for open—the hemming of pants on a child, the folding, hold still, hold still,
fingers at the hem, the child on a chair, pins held in the mouth,
words spilling out the lips’ crease, itself a furrow, funnel, runnel. Words
there like run-off, storm water. When I read, I dog-ear pages, turn
up the bottom corner when there is a word I like, like fold. I don’t use a pen.
When the book is over, I go back through and find the words
I know I must have liked, and put them on my dresser. I took fold
because it was an old word. It doesn’t need anything from me. It sounds
like earth. Fold used to mean earth, I want to say. ða wæs winter scacen,
fæger foldan bearm. Snow folds back like a sheet, uncovers earth.
It is all collapse and rise. Look at a child at a book of dinosaurs, where each
page turns and by some miracle of origami, dinosaurs leap at him,
the bookjacket flapping like wings, where he holds and releases beasts,
or a man who holds and releases a smile so that what remains are crow’s feet,
the folded markers of joy, which open in sadness like washboards on a back
road in spring, mud sagging into release and capture,
or the old woman who was trapped in her foldaway Murphy Bed for thirteen
hours, some joke of eponymous law—the space-making alternative
for today’s lifestyle—some old humor like what governs the folding of maps.
If, like Dr Urquart, I put a monarch butterfly in a bag and hide it on a branch,
it will be joined shortly by another. So much for pheromones, or simplicity.
There is some system of wing-beats that speaks, some shiver of color
only they can see, the shift of shadow in the hinge of wing-folding, the kiss
of definition on stilled antlers by a lake.
These are the ways I am folded
by you—into the light crease the store clerk makes to keep a receipt open,
make it easier to sign, the pressure of her finger holding it still, into a cootie
catcher, numbers and fortunes in the folds, into a string of cranes, a rack of
highway maps, a stack of clean sheets,
into your chest on a quiet road.
There were shadows—either from high
trees weltering or the wings on your back. Either way, they are pages now. I
fold them back into the night, each sheet a lakeside. I hardly recognize myself.