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Columbia River Gorge
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The Short Way Home - a poetry blog

Butterflies

Jill Cooper

Butterflies gather together along river edges to sun their wings and lick the salty rocks.

                                                                 ~ Todd Murray, entomologist

 

I have never strapped myself to cords and cables and neon kites.

I have never leaned my neoprene-wrapped body

backward on a board, tilting, swaying against the pressure,

bringing resistance into wind to loft into sky

 

like a boosting bird, like a curling wisp of smoke.

But I have dug my toes into hot sand and inhaled the evening air.

And I have observed the summer river - dancing with its hundreds

of kiters - a silent, distant applause of butterflies.

 

I have etched out stories with symbols onto paper.

I have played with the resistance and elements

and swells of language. And I have shown up for dawn patrol,

with quiet words, to unzip impermanence and let

her fly.

 

I have been there to catch the sky cracking open its translucency

onto yesterday’s hot memories. I have handle-passed

a honey gold sun, an apricot sun, even a fried egg sun

onto the flickering light of the screen.

 

No I have never surfed on water, but I have schlogged

through a paragraph luff, wondering, What am I doing here? 

 

But I licked the salty rock, and I came back again the next day,

for those moments when I am riveted downwind, with a whitecap phrase -

a butterfly in the power-zone, a moment, a blue eternity,

an ephemera, worth the words.

 

Yes I have dug my toes into the hot sand and inhaled the sweet night air.

But most of all, I have found that back on shore, like the butterflies, 

all I need depends on no more than a deep breath, and another sunrise. 

 

Jill Cooper©

Exult Road

The "kiters" and the wind of The Columbia River Gorge in Washington state inspired "Butterflies," a poem featured in the Columbia Center for the Arts Plein Air 2014 gallery event and anthology.