Illustration: admiral butterfly against a stormy sky

June Songs

In summer the trees churn with butterflies. Red admirals, hundreds, slither free of their chrysalids with new blood in their wings. Shivering black, quick glints of red. They are velvet-quiet no matter how closely you listen.

But the Texas warmth brings other things to sing. Chittering insects, the broody throng of white-winged doves. The air rings with pollen from the live oaks, carried by a breeze you can hear in your throat. Sunlight is a scrim against the pale open mouth of clouds.

In the morning the wind is electric. There will be a squall line, most nights. They say you’re supposed to stay away from the windows, so when you watch you sit far away, back to the wall, legs crossed on the floor. Lightning pulses like a panicked heart; thunder into thunder. Even when it hails you can barely hear it. If the doves hum from fear you’ll never know.

The rain should rinse the butterflies into the streets, but they are back tomorrow, spilling from the branches like scarlet petals. Brittle legs, fragile fierce wings. It’s hard to imagine where something so delicate could hide.

Summer is a riot. Even silence rustles like thunder.

Micah Nemerever studied art history and queer theory at the University of Connecticut, where he wrote his MA thesis on gender anxiety in the art of the Weimar Republic. He is the author of the novel THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS (Harper Books, September 2020), and his poetry is forthcoming in Issue 26 of SLICE. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Butterfly illustration by C.B. Auder.

NEXT – Pyre

RETURN to Issue Five