Metamorphosis of The Pale Tussock on a Plum Tree Branch

Jacqueline Balderrama

  after Maria Sibylla Merian’s hand-colored counterproof of plate 47 in Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung (Caterpillar Book), 1679

Let’s move clockwise, positing that the egg came first

because you crawl in the morning, sleep in the afternoon,

and fly in the evening. The branch of oblong plums

stands upright as yet uneaten and you, tussock caterpillar

parade your plumes without predator. Like a dream

you’re full but not yet fulfilled, leaves at the cusp of turning.

Let me see inside the cocoon cupped between

the fold of a leaf at seven o’clock. Behind the window,

the little confessional still holds its secrets

of turning yellow to whiskered gray and goo to wings.

What memory of steps remains when the new you emerges

unfurling sails for flight or angling the frontmost legs?

The final stage—invisibly painted—you suddenly eaten

or for a portrait pinned still.

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