Karner Blue Butterfly

by Marc Swan

It’s a small show in a grand old
brick synagogue converted to artist
studios a photographer
is hosting a display
of eight beautifully rendered
montages of the Nabokov butterfly.
Endangered blue the artist calls it.
The intricate drawings
detail history, dimension,
environment, the birth and death
cycle of this small
member of the animal kingdom.
I ask of the process,
the lengthy research needed
to understand and create
these heady illustrations. Holding
a glass of inexpensive white wine,
the artist smiles and begins
to tell her story. First
she asks if I’m a Nabokov fan.
I’ve never had that thought.
Not really, I say, but I’m someone
interested in learning.
She walks and talks from one
to another linking the components
so precisely created. She tells me
of the history of the discovery,
quoting words Nabokov spoke
to describe this delicate species,
of the fires burned in certain
habitats to create ash
for the lupine to flourish the staple
of the blue butterfly. She tells me
there’re only a few places they thrive.
My head’s drowning in an academic pool.

I find a convenient segue
and bid her a very nice adieu. On the way
out I speak with the photographer.
He tells me of his latest project
on Auschwitz. I’m ready to sink even
lower into an abyss when he explains
the photos are of trees. Trees born
of the dust and dirt of that place.
Trees bent, twisted with a tortured look,
he says, and that is enough.