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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Innis


Cecilia Innis by Zelle Westfall

I used to believe that the North American viceroy butterfly

was a batesian mimic of the monarch butterfly,

which is to say that it evolved

to copy the monarch’s warning signals

in order to deter its bird predators

In order to survive,

sometimes we take the bodies of others,

shed the tenderness of our insides

in the process of becoming.

But that’s not quite true,

what I thought about the viceroy being a batesian mimic of the monarch

(Mom stirs a homemade concoction with a disposable wooden spoon

because she hates hairdressers and it’s better this way)

Viceroy’s are actually categorized as müllerian mimics of the monarch,

which is to say that the two have evolved to copy

each other’s warning signals and

both benefit from their mutual imitation.

(Mom greases my ears and neck with vaseline

before coating my hair with a fishy,

chemical sweetness sharp enough to taste)

I don’t learn this in a classroom but

in a sanitized office with a cold armchair,

my university’s insurance and

someone to pick my brain,

turn the memories blue again.

(I see titanium metal plates burnt around the edges from use,

turning crisp tendrils to ash,

the all too metamorphic translation

of a girl’s desire to be pretty,

in order to survive)

My whole life I’ve been terrified of butterflies.

I can’t be fooled by an insect’s prettiness,

six legs, antennae,

and psychedelic dressing

Not that I could fool myself better,

when the humid summer heat

crawls up my hair shaft to its root,

dissolving the tedious work of an iron.

(You have to remember to say when it tingles

otherwise fire spreads through the white strips of skin

exposed from a careful comb with a long metal pick)

Stealing something that belongs to no one

Used to make me feel invincible.

Invincibility, not quite flight—

but the rush of careening towards the ground,

the certainty of pain and belonging.

I’m still terrified of butterflies.

(My scalp has not forgotten

mom’s comb

Her hands have not forgotten


And the birds pluck at what remains)

Edited by: Ava Emilione

Issue 17 Credits

Photography: Zelle Westfall

Creative Direction: Payton Selby, Ava Emilione, Leslie Vargas, Zelle Westfall

Photography Assistants: Ruby Summer, Jewel Simpkins

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