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 


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.

Catalogue of Searching

by Isabella Urdahl

        modeled after Rebecca Lindenberg’s Catalogue of Ephemera

I’ve been given soft maple lighting threaded with pieces of piano.

I’ve been given un coup de foudre, bouleverser, and tu me manques.

I’ve been given caramels of his language to coat my tongue with.

I’ve been given her playlists that stick like gum in my brain.

I’ve been given a stress ball made of shards of broken glass. I used to like that photo.

I’ve been given sound bites on Tokyo, PhDs, Arcadia, and Paradise Lost.

I’ve been given little electric text bubbles on the best way to drown in knowledge.

I’ve been given a needle full of serotonin.

I’ve been given the pages of Possession and the melody of Honeybee.

I’ve been given lyrics of Luck Pusher and I’ve been given bad odds.

I’ve been given a heavy sweater that swallows me whole in defenseless cashmere. 

I’ve been given soft folds of pleading, delicate cream cotton.

I’ve been given the souls of Europe’s lonely, hopeful cobblestone streets, New York’s 

ambitious hum, and a forest lake dripping in sunshine.

I’ve been given midnight November runs.

I’ve been given ice-cube ears, snowflaked hair, a face full of moonlight and 

cheeks of poppy petals.

I’ve been given humid August nights, shirts kissing skin, clinging tight 

through sweat and a heartbeat. 

I’ve been given gasping for air.

I’ve been given hands faltering over a keyboard, stumbling syllables. 

I’ve been given awkward teenager poems.

I’ve been given a cramp in my cardiac muscle, 

a corkscrew exploding open a pomegranate into pebbles. 

I’ve been given the plum slosh of mellow red merlot.

I’ve been given an absinthe-burned tongue.

I’ve been given the dehydrating warm beige of the Sahara.

I’ve been given the fresh laundry and dried basil aroma of a well-loved studio 

in a city held together by aching plaster stones and cracking plywood wishes.

I’ve been given a bookshelf to hold the overflowing pile on my bedside table.

I’ve been given Christmas decorations in May.

I’ve been given About Time and melting bronze clocks that stain my hands sunset.

I’ve been given a pulled tooth and the raw, fleshy gap 

that it leaves behind.

One I can’t help but touch, 

despite the blood.

I’ve been given Murakami’s On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful 

April Morning and I’ve been given wondering if 75% Perfect means a best 

friend or a glass ¼ empty.

I’ve been given the amnesia of Iceland’s Northern Lights.

I’ve been given accidentally blue fingers.

I’ve been given the thing that feathers.

I’ve been given a fresh page and the first drop of ink.