Lighter than moths with their cargo of soot and chimney-sweeper wings, butterflies resist litotes, demand a richer rhetoric though the voice must be soft, preferably perfumed, when it speaks of them. Their torsos have the slimness of a tall, anorexic fly or a martyred wasp stretched on a rack. Some believe they are breath made manifest, the soul’s first choice of soma as it returns to the wheel, yet they depend for their existence on a fat, ugly grub and its dream of flight.
Vulnerable and pale, when it emerges from the pupal shell—no longer grub, not yet butterfly—it pumps blood into its nascent wings, tightly clasped, and then waits in the sun for the wings to separate and dry. Its Latin name should translate as little apparatus of improbability. Its life span’s so short, in its lexicon the phrase for it is and it’s over is the same. You wish like a mosquito it carried a sting; you wish it needed a drop of you to fuel its frailty. What better use of human blood!
Oh, and you’ve yet to speak of the myriad of colours, its endearing spastic flitter in the air, or the daintiness of its six distinct feet that tap on petals and taste—yes, taste—the sweetness that triggers the uncoiling of its tubular tongue. Almost obscene, certainly primal, that long black tongue makes any flower’s knees fall open. You’d like to end here, on the elegance of that coupling, but the butterfly’s tongue also feeds on the body’s deliquescence. A blue, winged cloud of them lifts from the dog rotting near a ditch in Palenque, more sinister than flies because in their feeding and in their rising through the putrid air they remain still beautiful. And to our ears they make no sound.