for Beth Sunflower
Pins secured the butterflies
my gentle sister chloroformed.
Every swallowtail still reminds me of her.
They were the darkest and most beautiful.

She knew how to name and order
the Superfamily Papilionoidea.
When she was fifteen, she numbed herself
hiding in a trunk full of mothballs.

Not to die. To be safe.
Sometimes the only way to subdue
the world is to stick pins in a map
and migrate.

Every hinge is made of wings and a pin.
A knuckle pulls them together.
I have her brooch with iridescent wings.
When I wear it I remember

how I chased her as she ran with the net,
how I pursued her like nectar.
As if I would morph just by touching
the fragile dust of her.

Nowadays, I notice my hands fluttering
like hers when she was talking.
Every swallowtail reminds me of her.
She was the darkest and most beautiful.

— Kita Shantiris
Crannóg 34, Autumn 2013



This is a song for the weight
of your laptop and backpack
on your flight to the Canaries.

For all birds, which defy gravity,
and for your eyes, which I hope
will also rise again—

A song for Señora Perez
who will gather her skirt around her knees
and meet you at low tide

where she will teach you to prepare
sea snails in slimy mouthfuls
al mojo de ajo.

For vino tinto on the table
and the heater that warms everyone
under the wings of the tablecloth.

A song for the farmhouse you will rent
beside the culvert and the bananas
it irrigates. For the stone wall

where men will sit watching you,
like livestock whose heat no longer rises
from the stalls beneath your floor boards.

A song in the key of red.
The tip of their cigarettes
at the edges of dawn and twilight.

The long draws at their lips,
embers waxing and waning.
They, too, feel the wind. They hear

the call and answer of the ocean.
They, too, are waiting for it to return
everything it has taken.

— Kita Shantiris
Runner-Up for the 2014 Fish Poetry Prize
Fish Anthology 2014




With all the smudge pots,
who would have thought
they were evergreens?

When you were sixteen,
you lived on crates of Valencias.
Not much left after the rent and gas.

I fell for your ginger hair
the same way birds went for it
during nest building.

It made me think in Spanish—
of the sun falling asleep on my pillow
and the sun waking.

Of la puesta del sol
and el amanecer.
Of the masculine and feminine.

Of broken chairs that needed a man's touch.
When you came to undo the clamps,
I offered you red wine so sweet

we added limes and lemons.
Was it the green leaves
of my running shorts

or the night blooming jasmine?
On our first trip, we took the bypass
to collectibles and fruit stands.

That was twenty-five years ago.
I still remember where we pulled over.
All that juice staining us for life.

— Kita Shantiris
2nd Prize, 2012 Ballymaloe International Poetry Contest
The Moth, Issue 12, Spring 2013