Peach-colored butterflies have freed themselves from the wallpaper but, with no experience flying, have dropped to the floor of the hallway where they’re mired in the dense brown soup of the carpet. Electric radiators kick on in a vain attempt to blow them up into the air. The boy’s forgotten plastic tow truck to the rescue! It pulls the stuck, spasming butterflies one by one to the screen door so they can recuperate there on the sunny tile. If butterflies can feel gratitude, they do. The boy, thirteen, comes around the corner, thinks he knows how this movie ends: with a gust of wind sweeping the door open and the quivering pile of butterflies up into a pixie-dusted dance above the field out back. It’s how they always end. He goes to tell his parents that he’s bored and needs a tuna fish sandwich. In a pine by the house, a wounded cardinal sings a wish in through the windows, every single one of which his parents have thrown open for the fresh air: soft flight, soft flight, soft flight… The boy can’t hear the wish. In three decades, a hill will collapse and his home will violently tumble into the sea as he watches, as all the invited clients at his lawn party watch. He will cling to his long-handled spatula for hours. He will wish it hadn’t happened. He will be interviewed for the news and he will say all the right things.
Eric Burger’s poems have appeared most recently in Narrative, Ploughshares, Seneca Review, Passages North, Missouri Review Online, Denver Quarterly, and Harvard Review Online. A former Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, he teaches in the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Program for Writing & Rhetoric. He lives in Longmont, CO with his wife and two children.