Literary Hook: West Coast poem pays tribute to bed-and-breakfast owner

Christine Swanberg

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet

Current Literary Hooks are inspired by a recent trip down the West Coast.

We took the Coastal Starlight from Tacoma, Wash., to Santa Barbara, Calif., passing San Francisco along the way. This poem is for the late Karla Anderstatter, a poet and owner of the Butterfly Tree Bed and Breakfast. On the top of the mountain, Highway 1A, next to the Zen Center, the Butterfly Tree and Karla Anderstatter were mainstays of former trips to the Bay Area. They will be missed!

The Butterfly Tree

(for Karla Anderstatter)

Like monarchs returning to the Butterfly Tree,

large snow flakes sail past the window,

landing on the overgrown junipers.

Snow butterflies settling like sunshine.

I know a woman who lives where

a real butterfly tree grows sideways from a hill

near the San Andreas Fault, nearly wind-thrown.

Deep-rooted, it survives Pacific gusts, floods,

and even the earth swaying beneath its fingers

doesn’t send it crashing. There each November

the monarchs return, awaited like the call

from a lover. Seduced by the warm El Nino current,

they return in droves, thick as snow this year.

Orange boughs. And when many dies,

as butterflies may do, she took them in

and scattered them on her Christmas tree.

At this moment it is January in Illinois.

A pair of cardinals searches for juniper berries.

Their delicate talons leave soft calligraphy.

I knew a poet whose words were this graceful —

gossamer, lace wings of jazz and china.

She hit a tree — red berries on the snow,

which covers her now with a comforter

of snow butterflies. Crystal cape.

I know a man who can withstand an earthquake.

Geronimo winds cannot dislodge him.

How thoughtful that a tree grows farther down than up.

Spindly tangle, finger lace. Sometimes the enchanted

live with many spirits storming

in their hearts: butterfly, tree, cardinal …

Their roots must keep the hurricane at bay,

though branches dangle, and spines bend.

They flourish in fierce jagged places,

eat the red, bitter berries, and mate for keeps,

yet fly on paper wings the baffling distance.

This poem appears in Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity, available from Wind Publications. It was first published in Chiron Review.

This poem was first published in Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity, Wind Pubications, 2005.Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet. She received the Lawrence E. Gloyd Community Impact Award at the 2012 Rockford Area Arts Council State of the Arts Awards.

From the Oct. 9-15, 2013, issue

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