Dianne O’Connell



For three years, I was confined inside a tightly-spun cocoon. I wiggled free this morning, re-entering the world through triple-paned glass walls, the all but silent electric locks, behind me.  I will not return.  


My brother Merle agreed to meet me.  It was no surprise when he did not.  The staff said, “Use the house phone. Call a cab.” I saved twenty dollars for this momentous day. The cab took fifteen.


Last week was spring, I watched it from my window. Butterflies soared in warm, pre-summer skies, but today those skies pour out a heavy fall of most unwelcome snow.


      Fat, wet flakes descending slowly,

      Clouds of them engulf me boldly.

      Chilling beauty holds me sway,

      But not what I had planned this day.


The cab pulls up to the familiar Laundromat.  Sliding out, I slip around the building, and down the snow-filled trail.  It was here in the woods behind the place of spinning things that I had planned to stay. It was here that spring three years ago they arrested me, a vagabond, after ignoring me through record winter cold.

De-compensating, they observed.  For them, Demonic, was my word.           

“Hush, baby,” my mother’s voice began.  All is fine.  A butterfly survives, gets stronger, little heart throbs under snow and de-composing fodder.  On your appointed sun-filled day, you’ll blossom forth with joy, I say.”

“Butterfly” was not the name she gave me.  It was a name I took myself.  But once she learned of Butterfly, she called me such until the day her wings unfolded, and her spirit flew away.

Doctors say I’ll gain my sanity when I re-assume my birth name -- and its supposed reality. 

While under care, I was their “Ethel Agnes”.  The name itself was elegant, but its true bearer was my grandmother, my grandmother with the broken heart.  No butterflies for her.  “The switch just turns off. It’s over,” she said of death. She felt the same of life. 


“If this is reality, give me delusions,” I whispered at her bedside.  “Give me dreams.  I must survive.”  

Let the chart reflect: a homeless, sixty-year-old survivor from the flower times, history of drug abuse, re-occurring escapes from reality, moral-compass dysfunctional.


Yes, drugs, a little grass. It calms the restless spirit, but I sit through endless meetings to prepare for life without. Butterflies must fly solo, stay away from enticing flames where other peoples gather.  Bug-zappers wait – to test our blood and put us back in triple-paned glass bottles.


And watch for human lies.   I must be careful here and learn to live without affection, because it’s true, men pull wings off butterflies.


I am mature, with silver hair.  I yearn to laugh and love, to breathe deep the flower fragrances...


      Darling, the air is full of ice. 

      Breathe deeply and you’ll catch

      your death -- think twice. 

      You knew Merle would not be here. 

      You knew there’d be no place to stay. 

      You knew the only job you’d get

      would whittle soul away. 

      You knew there’d be those mornings

      when you’d want much more –

       those mornings when you’d really yearn

      -- to soar. 

      You’re fired, and penniless again. 

      Better take the diagnosis and the check. 

      You are impaired, my dear. 



      And truly very Sick. 


No!  I’ll live outside those walls.  I am Butterfly.  I have a right to fly free, like thee.  Why was this assigned to me?  Why can I not be cared for and protected, yet still be me?


      Hush, my baby bug.

      Dream your own reality.

      Fly to the woods,

      lay down your living body

      in this ever-deepening snow.

      But if you come to me…


Then thus it shall be so! I die. But when I wake, I’ll be -- your Butterfly.




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