Back to Issue Thirty-Three

Black Butterflies



Before the two men from the mortuary touched
her body, they put their hands into black silk gloves.
Four black butterflies stood on the white bedsheet.
Four black butterflies wove the sheet into a chrysalis
around her. They rested lightly on her—a giant mother—
pulsing slowly, signaling to one another
with silent wingbeats. Then the butterflies carried
the bound form out into the bright, etherizing light
of late spring. I thought: This is what life does, it bears away
the damaged and the dead. Now she is in the world
in a new way, like a baby drained of all suffering.
And now when I sleep, from time to time my eyes will flicker
open: black iridescent creatures hover over them, drinking
the warm, heavy drops upwelling from the source.



The Kindnesses of Death



First, that nothing touches you.
No silks unnerve your skin. No sunlight
splashes your empty face.

Next, that you can not hear
the separations in the cries of birds.

At last all things stop changing: the wind
stays undisturbed in its enclosure.
No hour grows long with awful feeling.

That others are released from love.
No one has to bathe you now
like a worn-out child…

The kindnesses
fall down on you like steady snow.
Under which you always
neither sleep nor don’t.


Jenny George is the author of The Dream of Reason (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). She is also a winner of the “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize and a recipient of fellowships from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Lannan Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. Her poems have appeared in The New York Times, Ploughshares, Narrative, Granta, Iowa Review, FIELD, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. Jenny lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she works in social justice philanthropy.


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