Three Poems

K. M. Lighthouse

Photo Credit: Biodiversity Heritage Library/Flickr (CC-by)

Dust to Dust

My mother closes the net
and brandishes bunched mesh.
Autumnal orange on muted
brown draws my fingers in
while she cautions: Don’t
touch the butterfly dust
or she’ll forget to fly. 
I pull my hand back and ask,
Am I covered in butterfly dust?
She laughs, saying,
Yes, so don’t let strangers
touch you.
I know we are
the butterfly’s strangers.

I inspect my skin
for powdery butterfly scales
and wonder if that’s where my color
comes from.
Perhaps, rubbing deeper than that,
I would become translucent,
skin cracked and torn
like crinkled insect exoskeletons
on windowsills.

When the school year returns,
long-sleeved shirts in my closet
multiply—hanging like empty cocoons—
and I keep my distance,
the avoidance
of touch my dress code.
Older girls show off
shaved legs, bare of gold-
brown fuzz, and I imagine,
if the dust is anywhere,
it’s in our hair.
I ask them, who touched you?
I ask them if they remember to fly.

And arranged in orderly rows
of desks, girls match
butterflies pinned under glass—
stiff in pretty appeasement—
the neat lines of names read the same:
Monarch, Peacock, Lady, Swallowtail;
Monique, Patricia, Lacy, Sharon.

Everyone begins to look like strangers—
my brother sprouts thick, black hairs
the color of necrosis; my mother
grays like dirty snow.
At dinner, I keep my hands
in my lap; I run from Auntie’s kisses
and Grandpa’s bristly hugs,
but even that’s of no use.
As dust settles
on the shelves of untouched limbs,
I am still forgetting to fly,
or perhaps I never flew at all.


When I Am Wife, I Am Also Daughter

She asks me to repeat myself every time
she doesn’t understand. She says,
I feel old. She says, I feel
alien around you. She asks if my body
will change with my hormone treatments.

Her client bribes her to wipe the tops of my shelves,
look at the cloth, make a face.
When she demonstrates, I almost think
she is serious.

She doesn’t remember when the three of us
get high the weekend she’s here, but she says,
You have gotten so beautiful. You 
know that, don’t you? When I say, I can’t
see what I am, she asks me
to repeat myself.

When you get a headache, I take
cues from your mom. I realize how much I trust
you to be a body
when she is absent.

Your mom suggests we perform Reiki,
but neither of us know how. She gives directions
for both of us to pull from your body, but
suddenly I am leading it—she pushes
and I pull from your feet.

She doesn’t understand why I buy
the painting of brain waves as a forest
but says she likes to see me fall
in love.

I do not forget that, when the women come
to save me, she’s the one who spends
the most time in our apartment.

My period started like clockwork, I tell her,
and she just smiles before turning
to catch her plane.


An Hour from Canada

Ten days before I tie my tubes,
I read poems about you aloud and omit nothing;
your meteorite eyes are wet as you say
I forgot how much I love you,
but I assume you’re talking to the baby.

I thought you always liked women more
you say at the stove—baby over shoulder
like you’ve always been a mom,
though birth did not change you.

Corn on the cob turns
to mush in boiling water while we wait
for your brother. You’re celibate,
you mention twice, and love
being single.
You live on nine acres of solar panels
and straw gardens where we banter
with the baby while our eyes are open.
Tell me what you’ve read—I want 
a mind like yours, 
so I’ll send a book from every genre.

Your stepdad offers your brother as a human
heater twice, once after I say I’m married.
There’s a large bottle of cheap table wine,
but I drink your glass
while you pump milk and it squirts
like a sprinkler.
I only use wine when I cook—
white wine—only when I cook.

In the morning, your bare feet and mine
look similar—tiny purple remnants
of nail polish months old—and I am
an armchair for the baby.
We listen to podcasts about bees
on the way to the farmer’s market
where we pretend to be lovers
and say we don’t know yet when vendors ask
if the baby is a boy.

I see spiral shell earrings but don’t have cash,
so I use credit for blackberry beet wine and chive plants
whose flowers taste of onions.
You look like you’ve lost weight
you say in the car, and I have,
but when the breeze is enough for a sweatshirt,
I put on one that reminds me of you,
and in the mirror, I almost look


K. M. Lighthouse graduated from the University of Utah and worked as the senior poetry director of enormous rooms for two years but has since made the Pacific Northwest a home. The poet is the author of two chapbooks, The Observer Effect and you are an ambiguous pronoun. Lighthouse’s other works appeared in From Sac, Blue Lake Review, Mapping Salt Lake City, and Sonic Boom. K. M. Lighthouse is an assistant organizer with Portland’s Eastside Poetry Workshop and a member of High Priestesses of Poetry. Email: kassandra.lighthouse[at]

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