Friday, August 16, 2013

Thinking About Yoyos

 Zebra Butterfly
—Photo by Chris Moon

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

A Black-and-White will flit and fly,
spread wings of zebra cloth—
a zebra moth or butterfly.
To me your wings are both.
You fly from zebra’s nose
as tail swats dung heap flies
toward flowers of hue, whose
petals glow in blue surprise.

Or, are you lightning strike tonight?
Your white-on-black—electrifies.
You sport your classic black-on-white
to prove you death-defy.
You fool this gentlelady pensive,
who thinks you’re zebra-relative.


—Nancy Haskett, Modesto

Double sets of doors
Protect butterflies inside
Man-made habitat

Enclosed by glass walls
We walk into a jungle
Humidity soars

Exquisite colors
In symmetrical patterns
Fly all around us

Gentle flutterings
Wings like a Tiffany lamp
Silent pulsations


—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

In the beginning,
It was the Duncan Imperial,
Shaped like a bun on a string
Also called the Professional
Or the Tournament. It was
Your basic working man’s,
Or slacker schoolboy’s yoyo.
It could go down, come back
(Usually), go round the world
(Often), rock the baby
(Sometimes). But there wasn’t
Much else. It could do
What you needed to do, even
With the model with the line
Of rhinestones across
The logo, which no one
Ever admitted to owning.

Then in the fifties, Duncan
Introduced the Butterfly.
It sort of looked like one,
If you closed one eye, peered
Down the gap line, and weren’t
Too familiar with winged insects
In general. But it was Heavy.
More a Rock than a thing
Of flight, bright color,
And possibility. It did not
Come back.

The more creative among us
Realized that it was better
As a bolo than a yoyo, and we
Would gallop across playgrounds
Swinging our Butterflies
At each other like demented
Gauchos until the school bell rang.

I can see them now, lying beside
The schoolyard drain, butterfly
Logos chipped and fading, always
Somehow two of them, strings
Inextricably tangled. “It’s as
Though they died trying to
Strangle each other," the old nun
Would say significantly, as though
Some great life lesson were there
In the mud. Which, of course,
There was.

 —Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
Neon butterflies breathe
out an ethereal breeze
over my back and head
I'm on a hammock
painting in a smock
a watercolor of the seas
in a makeshift bed
upon tree trunk leaves
near my barnyard shed
waking from a deep sleep
thinking of Keats' death
under a consummate sun
who glowed for poetry
dying in love in Rome
far from his English home
whose life though brief
like a butterfly's languor
yet whose still life words
weave color and shade
amid a fallen earth of anger
and storms of grief
here in the warmth
of an August rest
above the tall grass blades
fluttering golden butterflies
like you, John Keats,
offer us relief.


—B.Z. Niditch

Taking out for the prom
a botanist's daughter
buying her a corsage
as the sky spit rain
filled the basement yard
waiting for her
in the mud room
her dad shows me
from his atlas
his butterfly collection
all classified by alphabets
in fragile open window
ivory cases,
the Harvard professor
lets me view
his monarch butterflies
while the spacey daughter
wants to survive
her dad's thousandth lecture,
I feel like a caterpillar
in a trap,
enjoying all 140,000 species,
while my eardrums
race with all these facts.
Zoe is finally fully dressed
in her freshman best
we escape through a side door,
I'm eclipsed by a butterfly pin
her dad puts on
over her corsage,
never letting her forget
we can always fall
into any trap and net,
later hearing through the vine
Zoe married a lepidopterist
for in her father's will
it was said Zoe could inherit
all his green things
only if she measured up
to his gold butterfly wings.


—B.Z. Niditch

Very stern
but with humor
Vladimir Nabokov
on his high lectern
told us about a "flutter"
those wings in a butterfly
he discovered in his dacha
on country hills in Russia
we start to day dream
as he speaks of Lermontov,
the Romantic poet
on the Volga and Neva Rivers
we wish to daydream
with violets, gulls, caterpillars
wet with raindrops,
he tells how to mount
magnify and classify
all of these lovely creatures
with pencils of a scientist
when art and nature features
for us a unique lepidopterist.


—B.Z. Niditch

Cleaning out the attic
your hands move
on these useless storage
places a few yards
from the locked-up garage
where skipper butterflies
follow me passing in pairs
by my red-eye retinas
from a sleepless night
noting in my diary
it was last mid-August
when my promise
was made to search,
clean out and rescue
in the glances and pleading
of my best friend
the bric-a-brac havens
at a Platonic cave of my past,
my brow is moist
from a chilled conscience
as a moth flies by landing
in the dusty salad bowl
by once-lost pawned items,
an old chess set
love games of a child,
Proust's "Time Regained,"
an old '78 of Louis Armstrong's
"Yesterday's Blues"
as colors and patterns
of gold and neon butterflies
rest on Nabokov's "Pale Fire"
the untrained lepidopterist
who told us at college
in one little winter seminar
of his love for these beauties
bodies and wings
and had in Russian humor
a few blushing as the vapors
at the napes of our necks,
feeling now up here
by a firefly candlelight wick
as any caterpillar undergoing
his own luminous illumination
and poetic metamorphosis.


Today's LittleNip:

—Michael Cluff, Corona

Out of eclipse
feet find the sand
a dog gladly barks
the self loses its
self becomes remiss
never in hand
misses passage
on Noah's Ark.


—Medusa, with thanks to today's contributors for mulling over butterflies with us! Kevin Jones' new book, Throwing Down: An Apocryphal History of Yoyoing in America is now available at

—Photo by Taylor Graham