Chrysalis

We don’t sleep through it.

Humans imagine
that we hibernate like bears
drifting off as wormlike larvae
and waking up with wings –
don’t make me laugh.

It’s more like your birth and labor
except we’re child and mom at once
it’s a solitary transformation
and it hurts.

Surprised?
You try digesting
almost all of your own cells
till you are just a soup
in which a few discs float
holding blueprints
for the parts of you-to-be.

Then live through the assembly
of antennae, legs and eyes:
more excruciating, even
than your dissolution was.

Mind you, it has a purpose
as self-evident as rain
and generally, that’s what pulls us through.

But most of us
have moments
when we falter
‘cause we think
I’ll just stop now
curled-up, cozy
and I’ll die.
Won’t that be nice?

But then it passes. Hormones surge
as organs form, nerves come online
and finally – guess what? – comes the worst part
the very hardest part of all.

It’s the moment when you’re ready
with your strong wings folded tight
and your brain already dreaming of the sky
but the pupa’s walls seem solid
hard as marble or concrete
and you feel sure you’re dying badly
suffocating in your cell.
Your panic spikes –

and what comes next, I can’t explain.

It’s like your urge to push, I guess
but suddenly the impossible
is all that you can do.
Your whole self clenches inward
and then it fiercely shrugs
blood thunders through heart-chambers
as the cocoon cracks and frays
you feel it break around you
you squeeze through
it slides away.

Wing-spreading can wait, we mostly figure
as we lie there, wet and tired.
It’s enough to feel our spiracles
drawing in the open air
and our antennae trembling
at the world-sounds
as we finally face the light.

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Kimberly Gladman Jackson is the author of Materfamilias (Tandeta Books, 2018) and Tesseract (Finishing Line Press, 2016).
You can connect with her on her website.

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