Was a Caterpillar by Kim Suttell

This is not the story about the slug of a creepy thing
with little color and less appeal who transforms
by magic to a rock-star butterfly. Not me.

I was covered with highly attuned bristles. I knew
when the temperature changed by less than a degree.
I knew it in Fahrenheit and Celsius. Old folks might

say rain was on by a flare in the knee or elbow
but I had no joints. The thrill of an approaching storm
charged my whole long body. I knew it enough in advance

to get to high ground and not have to hurry.
Listen, I could walk upside down. Half asleep,
I could walk straight up walls. What was best was

my appetite. Nothing makes one feel truly alive
like the joy of a feast. The smell of a tulip tree
was a warm wash and a hug. Some people say

you press spots of the sole of the foot to stimulate
lungs or liver. Well every bite for me really was that.
Can you imagine? And what do butterflies do?

They are repulsed at the idea of food and take tiny sips
when they absolutely have to – and even those
make them queasy. I was a caterpillar on a concrete patch

under stinging sun, lizard-like I soaked in heat. With no
particular need or reason, put me under a hosta and I’d be
just as happy. I knew the back of me like the front of me.

Once I spun my own grave. I spit out a prison.
Maybe I was mad—angry or insane, it doesn’t matter.
Everything was white where I hung in peril.

I gasped in the stale air. I fainted. I woke and shook.
I braced a hundred legs against the paper wall and didn’t
have the strength to tear it. I begged for freedom. I prayed

to the glow of the moon. I grew famished and foggy.
My bristles faded. I resisted sleep. I stared into
one tiny prick of yellow sun. I kicked into it weakly.

I wriggled into it. I squirmed to peer eye to its eye. I was
able to tear it just slightly by nudging my chin. I saw the day
urge me on. I worked at my way out with thin energy,

til frogs sang and lightning bugs zipped. And then
the shell gave. Through the tiniest escape I pulsed.
I was thin by then. I pulled out, counting all my legs

as they squeezed through. I lost count. Or maybe I lost legs.
All I remember is that I wasn’t particularly hungry.
I am not a butterfly. I was a caterpillar.


“Metamorphosis” image by Flickr user Luciphoto

kim suttell_03_lowres_colorKim Suttell lives in New York City so she can jaywalk. Some of her poems reside in Right Hand PointingCleaver MagazineThe Cortland Review, and other journals.  They are compiled for you at page48.weebly.com.