“In Search of Butterflies” by Jennifer Steele, excerpted from Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry

After your first day of 1st grade at a new school
we start the 20-minute walk from work to the car:
                 Harold Washington Library
                 then down Plymouth Ct.
                 and through Cotton Tail Park
to spare the costs to park any closer.

I tell you the time will go by quickly
if we share stories about your day,
I-Spy morning glory after morning glory
adorning rod iron fences of homes
that I wish to plant next Spring
outside our southside building
so you can also see this kind of beauty
everyday outside our door.

I tell you there will be butterflies
like the ones you raised and set free
at your old school with your old teacher
and hope this will be enough.
When you are not with me and I take this walk alone
I call out Painted Lady! or Monarch! as you do
in delight, so that you are.

But right now you are six and tired
and done with the length and labor of this trek
until we finally see one butterfly

and then another

and another

and we count more as we go,
never attempting to catch them.
Just call out their names
and watch them fly on, unafraid
of never seeing them again.


Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago PoetryEdited by Donald G. Evans and Robin Metz. Chicago: Chicago Literary Hall Of Fame, After Hours Press and Third World Press, 2022. Excerpt of one poem.

Copyright © 2022 by Chicago Literary Hall Of Fame, After Hours Press and Third World Press. Publishing June 13, 2022. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Steele is from Middletown, CT and has lived in Chicago since 2006. She is a Howard University alum with an MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. She is the author of A House In Its Hunger (Central Square Press, 2018), and an alum of Callaloo (2015), the Poetry Incubator (2016), and Ragdale (2021). She is the executive director of 826CHI, a writing/publishing center amplifying the voices of Chicago’s youth, and was featured in NewCity’s 2020 Lit50. She is the inaugural recipient of the 2019 Lucille Clifton Creative Parent Writing Award and her work is forthcoming and has appeared in Hypertext Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Callaloo, Columbia Poetry Review, Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resistance, and others. She is working on a full-length collection of poetry entitled, Belt, and developing a collection of creative nonfiction.

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