Portrait of butterflies in bloom

by Isabella Urdahl

“Tous les amoureux ont-ils l’impression d’inventer quelque chose?”

                Portrait de la jeune fille en feu

In my chest there bloom butterflies with flower petal wings.

They need air so I give them the memory of the breath leaving my lungs, 

         quand tes lèvres

        turned up at the corners, une intrigue

        a soft lighthouse from across the room.

They take all my oxygen and I surrender

         it like the body surrenders

         to a song, to the touch of tes

         doigts qui jouent on my skin. 

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t need more oxygen, 

       but you leave me so breathless my body might have just found itself again –  

       Je voudrais courir et fling my watercolor limbs 

       off this cliff and plummet. Wingless, 

        bouleversée, and wanton.

Who knew le coup de foudre could make you feel so electric.

Take it all and breathe it back 

         into me with your tongue, 

         which is ta question et 

         ma réponse in one. 

Take these butterflies. 

         My ribcage a mere canvas house 

         for their explosion of hues and 

         les-mots-ne-peuvent-pas-rendre-justice 

that your eyes painted into me like a rayon de lune 

          pirouetting off glass and into a room that was waiting for le soleil.

I knew nothing of music until your color-bathed fingers

        traveled the trembling paper of my chest.

        Flower petal wings string a symphony in my stomach, 

        orchestrated by the brushstrokes your lips coat onto mine.

Would Camus think me in love? 

          “. . . tout donner, tout sacrifier sans espoir de retour”

Perhaps, although 

         I think Madame Desbordes-Valmore’s powdered nose would turn 

         at the way 

je laisse tes paroles danser dans mes artères.

         And your words honey-stick to me but I’d make a welcome sign for bee stings.

         And I’d carry all les crèves-coeur,

         for one mouthful of your syllables ambering my vision.

I think Balzac knew what he was saying when he named Love — poetry of the senses.

Que tu es belle.

           The shape of your laugh is my favorite line break.

           The life raft of your smile hidden behind your hand, la syllabe qui interrompt mon mètre.

The curve where ta joue rencontre ton cou, a liaison more imaginative

           than tout ce que la langue française pourrait rêver.

And I a — ,

          en train de prier,

          pour tu, que tu complètes la phrase, la peinture

          that you began in my body.