Butterflies on Fire

fire butterfly

for M. L.

We’re setting butterflies on fire,
the ghost of a long lost
childhood friend and I.

Our fingers are phosphorescent and sad,
like matchsticks before the spark.
So much for things of the past.

I look at her smile,
cold white flame

On her shoulder, an abstract
of a bird from the last
gasp of a dream

Before waking.
The windows rattle,
not knowing how she

Could have gotten through them
in the middle of the night.
The scent of burnt wings

Are trapped in the curtains.
What will Mother say
when she smells her ghost

In the secret pockets
of my dirty clothes?


This poem was written around 1992 and first appeared in Salimbayan, a collection I shared with three good friends back from university, Neal Imperial and Argee Guevarra.   The book was published in 1994 and is currently out of print.  One day we might get together and work on a revised version.

This currently appears on Helium.

About matangmanok

Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates poetry. Sometimes he tries his hand at essays and stories. His latest book is BLOODRED DRAGONFLIES, published by Deep South in South Africa. Check out the official blog page for Bloodred Dragonflies. In 2011 the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in Manila released BAHA-BAHAGDANG KARUPUKAN (poems in Filipino) and ALIEN TO ANY SKIN (poems in English). The same publisher released his most recent poetry collections SOUND BEFORE WATER and KALMOT NG PUSA SA TAGILIRAN. In 2015 a new poetry collection in English, A THOUSAND EYES was released. His first collection of short stories in Filipino, SANGA SA BASANG LUPA, was released in 2016. UK publisher The Onslaught Press launches his poetry collection, WINGS OF SMOKE, worldwide in February 2017. San Anselmo Publications released HOW TO MAKE A SALAGUBANG HELICOPTER & OTHER POEMS in 2019 followed by CROCODILES IN BELFAST & OTHER POEMS in 2020 - both books can be purchased through their Facebook page. View all posts by matangmanok

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