In Philadelphia many years ago
even gypsy caterpillars seemed a cause
for celebration, and cabbage whites,
common as crab grass, almost like unicorns.
How then could I respond to those
infrequent visitors, black swallowtail or monarch,
drawn by an errant milkweed growing
in a vacant lot or sewer grate?
I stalked them with my net,
and finally caught a swallowtail,
body bigger than my hand. Its splendid
blue-black wings folded between my thumbs.
It lived for weeks on nectar from a tube
but all the while, it beat
its useless wings against the screen.