A Word of Advice

by Brian Wallace Baker

When you come upon a tiger swallowtail
languishing on the trail, dragging
its ragged paper wings over pebble-boulders,
leaving its black and yellow
chitin in the dust—


Do not step on it. Do not walk by.
Extend a finger. Let it
find footing in your fingerprint.
Let it taste you with its feet.
Let it balance in your blood-warmth.
Lift it to your face. You can choose
to see its worn-out kites or count
its thousands of eyes, staring back.

When you have both had your fill,
offer it to the lamenting prairie grass.
Wait as it reaches away
from you, to sway and feel
the breeze under its wings
before it dies.

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