Mariposa de la Muerte

Natalie Kimbell

Mariposa de la Muerte
For Eloisa

You’re harmless like a loose strand of hair
a creature reborn donning black
velvet wings thin like parchment
where intricate patterns lace
zigzag back and forth
pulled into darkness

and to ripened fruit
or drawn to the light
against the ceiling fixture
frantic flapping like darting eyes
your shadow looms in the house
like the rattle fluttering in her chest


Natalie Kimbell lives in Sequatchie County, Tennessee. She is a mother of two, and a grandmother of four. She works as a teacher of English, in creative theater and creative writing at her high school alma mater. Her poetry is published in the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild 2019 Anthology, Garfield Lake Review, Chattanooga Writers’ Guild 2020 Anthology, Anthology of Appalachian Writers’ Dorothy Allison edition, and American Diversity Report. Her work also appears in the 2021/22 Women of Appalachia Project’s Women Speak, and Beautiful: In the Eye of the Beholder [SweetyCat Press].

Author’s Backstory: This piece was generated after viewing a prompt from an Ekphrastic Workshop. The picture of a moth lead to a web search about moth types and mythology. The Death’s Head Moth caught my attention. I was intrigued by the comparison to, the Hollywood/mythology hype and the moth’s actual harmlessness. In groping for a simile to illustrate the innocuous nature of the moth, I stumbled on the idea of a loose hair. From there, I focused on the image of the moth striving not to rely on the most obvious description for illustration. However, it wasn’t until I was mid-way through the poem when the thought of Eloisa came to mind. Eloisa Ramirez was my mother-in-law and my friend. Her last three years were spent in my care. The last year was the most difficult as dementia completely replaced the woman I knew. In the writing, suddenly the moth in the poem became death out of the dark, after the ripened fruit, drawing the soul to the light. I still remember the heavy feeling–the anxiety of waiting for death to come for her and the rattle in her chest before she left us. In the poem, I took liberty comparing the batting sound of a frantic moth against the light to a death rattle, but when I think of her final hours I feel the anxiety of the moth inside of me.

Image Credit: Día de los muertos mask [] and back moths []

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