“Vera’s Butterflies” by Diane Elayne Dees

For the final day of my career, I dress
in black, save a splash of white in a classic
Vera Neumann scarf. It is a kind of death,
complete with flowers from my final client.
For decades, I listened to stories that broke
my heart, triggered my rage, and made me
wonder how any of us has survived—
stories of cruelty, betrayal, loneliness,
and trauma. The very walls of my office
are sealed with the tears of the abandoned,
the abused, the hopeless, the overwhelmed.
They can never be washed away or painted
over. Grief oozes from the cracks in the door,
where—occasionally—hope creeps in,
reminding me that grief and hope
must blend or there can be no alchemy,
no repair of the torn fabric of our frail lives.
I look down at my scarf, which is covered
with Vera’s abstract butterflies. She sewed
her first scarves from the abandoned
parachutes of war, turning violence into art,
and transmuting hopelessness into beauty.
I am no Vera, but I have done my best.
I close my office door for the last time,
drive home, remove my scarf, and hang it
in my closet, allowing Vera’s butterflies—
elegant, fragile symbols of transformation—
to float freely around my own broken soul.


first appeared in Nine Cloud




Diane Elayne Dees is the author of the chapbook, Coronary Truth (Kelsay Books) and the forthcoming chapbook, I Can’t Recall Exactly When I Died. Her latest microchap, Pandemic Times, is available for downloading and folding at the Origami Poems Project website. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana–just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans–also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world. Her author blog is Diane Elayne Dees: Poet and Writer-at-Large.

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