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Sherry Hughes Beasley

When I think about those afternoons we went outside, bright
May sunshine hot on our backs, bright yellow wings
perched on the boxwood ? how we
cupped our hands around them
and carried them inside, wings tickling our palms
as they tried to escape,
Then, on our knees in my brother’s room,
we released them into their new home ? a clean gallon jar
with a metal lid slit for air
and lined with clinical white
like a Nazi laboratory - how appalled I am when I remember
How they flew against the glass
for hours, terrified and confused, how they died there
in that glass prison, without food or water, things we
never thought to provide but also, yes, freedom.
We pierced their bodies with straight pins
and stuck them to a cork board
to emulate the urbane villain in a movie we’d seen,
who showed his guests the fabulous specimens he’d collected
in Burma and Peru
And I tell you, we cannot know the shapes that angels take
and Jesus said Inasmuch as ye have done this
unto these, the least of my brethren
So I wonder, what if those Monarchs we sacrificed
so casually to our own egos, and the stray cat
my parents chased away with scalding water,
and the robin someone shot as it perched
on our vegetable-garden fence
where it froze to the wire that winter,
what if all of them
and their kind
were angels sent to observe us
and carry back to heaven the news of our goodness?
© by Sherry Beasley.

Used with the author’s permission.




Sherry Hughes Beasley lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in southern Virginia. Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and she is the recipient of eleven poetry awards, including the 2009 Edgar Allen Poe Memorial Award. A jeweler, perfumer, soapmaker, and environmental and animal protection activist (says Sherry, "I would rescue every abused and/or neglected animal in the world if I could!"),  she is the mother of two grown sons, has one granddaughter, and lives in a house she and her husband designed themselves.

Post New Comment:
Oh, how pensive of our in-gratitude. It is awful of us.
Posted 06/29/2012 07:33 AM
...and all those ants I've stepped on! Good recollection of our cruelty, especially when taught by example by those older than us! Thanks for your work...
Posted 05/17/2012 04:03 PM
Well-crafted poem of our universal guilt.
Posted 05/17/2012 03:52 PM
Beautiful! Startling. Reminded me how my mom (who also loved the animals)used to say to people who sprayed ants, swatted flies, etc., : "What if you get to heaven and God is a bug?" :) Thanks for the lovely, thought-provoking poem.
Posted 05/17/2012 12:36 PM
To Anjie - I would be honored if you shared this poem with your students. To Anjie and everyone else - thank you so much for your kind comments and thank you Jane for publishing this poem.
Posted 05/17/2012 12:04 PM
Sharon Urdahl:
Powerful childhood reflections for many of us...Really liked the flow of the poem, the content and question...
Posted 05/17/2012 09:28 AM
What a wonderfuly done expose of casual cruelty that we did not understand. I loved the cosmic question. Helen P
Posted 05/17/2012 08:17 AM
Wow, Sherry. This is excellent! Do you mind if I share it with my students? I like how it builds from the innocence of a child to the intention of the adults with the cat and the bird. The timing is great, and it is one of those poems I read twice in the first reading, because the first reading wowed me. That doesn't happen with a lot of poems.
Posted 05/17/2012 08:12 AM
Very powerful poem! I was moved by the many images of our childish curiosity that unknowingly caused such pain. It is hard to go through life without the monster part of us, though. A sad reality I fear, but perhaps as adults we can practice better compassions.
Posted 05/17/2012 08:01 AM

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