A Caterpillar Chewing a Weed Leaf Wonders if He’ll Ever Become a Butterfly by Elaine Wang



A Caterpillar Chewing a Weed Leaf Wonders if He’ll Ever Become a Butterfly


Is it feasible, really?

Can my body dissolve into goo

and put itself back together again?


When do I stop breathing?


Is it before I run out of air?


What does it mean to carry

your destiny in your body


And what does it mean

that you have to destroy yourself

in order to get it?


What is that trust and

how can I find it?


What if in order to read your future

you have to stop existing

in the present

but then who is the one doing the reading?


If I never emerge, does that mean

my life was wasted?


Who in the world has eyes

that can watch over me?


When I emerge, what will I remember?




Elaine Wang




Elaine Wang has been published in F(r)iction #14, Auburn Avenue, Elastic Magazine, Memorious, Sunstar, Spires, cahoodaloodaling, Zero Ducats, the Lantern Review, FreezeRay, and Front Porch (now Porter House Review). She was part of 92y’s #wordswelivein project, 7x7’s Exquisite Corpse (collaboration with Kenji Liu),and Unmargin's "Incantations." She is a Kundiman Fellow and 2014 and 2017 Pushcart Prize Nominee. Born and raised in Texas, she now resides in Los Angeles.


Website: www.theelainewang.com

Twitter: @theelainewrites 



About This Poem

The metamorphosis of a caterpillar to butterfly as a symbol of change is quite cliche nowadays, but few people know that the process first requires the caterpillar to completely break down into a "soupy mush," which then feeds dormant imaginal cells, which then build into the resultant butterfly (who is a completely different creature from the original caterpillar - in fact, within the chrysalis, the caterpillar's immune system actually attacks these imaginal cells before it is finally overtaken). When I first learned of this, the process became less about foregone beauty (ugly duckling to swan) and more about the brutality of change. The trust required, the fear that is almost always present, the knowledge that the "old you" will be obliterated, the inevitability whether we are ever ready or not. 

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