Poems and Poetry

White Butterflies and Gram | A Poem by Donal Mahoney

Gram tells Stella on the phone
her neighborhood is full of old folks.
She hasn’t seen Stella in 60 years
and won’t see her again because
of the canyon of miles between them.

But Gram insists on keeping Stella
current on her neighbors who die
when the seasons change, although
Stella’s never met one of them.

Gram tells her Tom Murphy’s wife died
around this time last year when the
Monarch butterflies took off for Mexico.
And Mary Kelly’s husband died the day
Gram saw her first robin of the spring.
It was a bad year, Gram tells Stella,

pointing out Father Flynn passed away
at the start of winter when the juncoes
came to bicker with the mourning doves
on the floor of Gram’s porch, fighting over
seed spilled by cardinals from the feeder.

The cardinals and jays stay all winter,
Gram tells Stella, and look beautiful
in the blue spruce surrounded by snow.
Too bad you live so far away, she says.
You’d like it here when autumn comes.

Now the only visitors are white butterflies,
Gram says, the little ones most folks ignore
in summer when Monarchs rule the garden.
Monarchs look as if Tiffany designed them
but they’re more beautiful than any lamp.

Gram doesn’t know if the white butterflies go
to Mexico the way the Monarchs do but says
they don’t look strong enough to make the trip.
Then she wishes Stella the best of health,
says she hopes they’ll chat again next year
and begins a litany of long good-byes.

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