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 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.
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.