Restless Rainbow—Marisca Pichette

Don’t forget to change into that dress; now more like a tunic, or a shirt, shrunken by time—lined up and filed in neat little folders under a smudged heading written in purple gel pen: Me. Sifting through these, looking for highlighter, or highlights, I find butterflies.

Butterflies swimming on a field of blue, or grey now; clouds or atmosphere or cotton pockmarked by those soft cousins—moths. 

Remember. Don’t forget.

When the first whisper comes through maple leaves, when they stir and click their edges together in restless waiting; when the porch is no longer a porch but a stage of sense, my bare feet sticking to cold cement despite the summer warm. 

I feel roughly grounded, hauled down into the world of gravity. But breathless like the trees high above—waiting for the barest excuse to take flight.

When you hear it, run. Take the sense of change and spin it into desire. Feel the petrichor as it tumbles over the horizon, and don your butterflies.

I called them from the air as green clouds huddled together in the sky, called them from wood and marble and glass. 

Now they dwell in dustbunny warrens, seeing nothing nearer to rain than banished cells of Styrofoam, drifting from the eaves where only mice make their home. The refuse of an empire built on fluff and seed.

But once I called them, confident in the feel of their bodies, lighter than yesterday and only a breath upon my face. Together we touched our toes to the mist and hurled ourselves across the green grass sea.

In this blue-grey long-short dress-shirt I saw raindrops laughing from sky to shore, horizon to hill. Falling, rising with them my butterflies and I tried and failed to dance. I faltered, slipping on the rain-soaked grass, dirtying my elbows and soiling that blue-grey hem. Drenched in ambition, we forgot how hard it was to fly. 

It’s shut away now, exiled in the caverns of an attic, its walls bare but for the relics of a great empire—castles and cemeteries and all the wonders of life—piled into sunflower shells, slowly crumbling through time.

When my butterflies grow tired they leave me for their home, winging away in an incomplete rainbow against the retreating clouds. I follow their flashing wings to the place I live, walking through the heavy aftermath of gravity’s brief hiatus. 

We went together then, and often, and never anymore. 

Some things, left untended, unattended stay, folded under the sheltering bones of an extinct kingdom. Only mouse droppings remain.

Brush these aside and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of a butterfly, unchanged but somehow different, somehow smaller, compressed in the eye of memory and reduced to barest fact, where once it was wildness.

And maybe there are still butterflies when all is said and done and wrapped up in starched folds. Maybe that ancient kingdom never faltered, but retreated into reservation. Backed up against the roof—on account of the wetness of butterfly wings.

Marisca Pichette’s work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Vastarien, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fantasy Magazine, and Flash Fiction Online, among others. Her speculative poetry collection, Rivers in Your Skin, Sirens in Your Hair, is out now from Android Press. She spends her time in the woods and fields of Western Massachusetts, sacred land that has been inhabited by the Pocumtuck and Abenaki peoples for millennia. Find her on Twitter as @MariscaPichette and Instagram as @marisca_write.

photo by Shot by Cerqueira (via unsplash)