Virginia J. Marr

starting to see // butterflies

my brain makes hyenas out of uncertainties
so four years ago,
these mountains seemed to be shadows
of lonely,
this location looked like an anchor
deciding when to
and settle me into the silty stagnation
of a small town
and winters that cherished the cold
like a newborn
in need of
continual caressing,
each feed a flurry
falling in front of faces
i feared i’d never know.

anxiety addresses change as an alarm
in need of acknowledgement,
and though i snoozed,
stayed steady:
could i really achieve all that they’d ask of me?

back then,
i thought i’d be this,
and you knew you’d be that:
we clutched the conviction of “smart”
and sacrificed sleep
so the pages would be read
and we could go to class
and do more than pass,
still bound to believe
validation was a need,
for who were we
if not successful students?

and for a while,
it worked,
or rather we did,
until exhaustion became
less of a concept and more of a constant
and numbness felt like a friend,
who kept checking in
‘cause if they weren’t there,
we might not
get an assignment in on time,
and what of us then,
for who were we
if not successful students?

but the semesters started stacking,
like pancakes on a plate,
and we realized were full
but still we stayed and ate,
until our stomachs shouted
loud enough for our ears to hear,
and by then we were so used to silence
that we were startled by the sound of ourselves.

so we listened.

something had to change.

for productivity had never stopped pushing,
criticism was a clingy companion,
and what’s the use of a degree
if it hasn’t taught you a better way to be?

i decided to switch majors,

and maybe we all did,

suddenly cramming seemed less significant
than standing under the lampposts
on February nights,
when the only sound was snow
and the flakes waltzed with the wind

summiting stone hill became studying
the space between our minds,
and talking with you,
the best seminar i’ve taken.

the most important sentence
i read in college:
“now is the only time you have for anything”

so i decided to stop splitting my
seconds with the future

it’s all become so stunning.

it’s beginning to seem like my diploma’s really in delight,
in finding it each day,
in getting enough sleep,
in learning to say,
“no” when i need to,
and “yes” when it’s true
and recognizing there are some things
an institution can never give you.

i’ve been looking out at the fields
and they’ve been teaching me
that there’s enough light and love left
to turn us all into sunflowers,
that growing up is
ghastly and gorgeous,
that most of the time,
paradoxes are a sign of clarity.

and this community– it’s string,
growing by unravelling
we’re all loosening our grip
so we can open our palms
and finally see
that the uncertainties
just might be