Butterfly House

Confused cloudywing, sleepy orange,
question mark and whirlabout,
dainty sulphur, cassius blue,
palamedes swallowtail.

One hundred and fifty species of butterfly
make their homes in Alabama
and I am trying to learn
the name of every single one
so that I know what to call

the things in my belly
that flutter their wings
every time you walk into the room.


You drove down to Brierfield for the weekend
and almost as soon as you made it into town,
I took your hand and we let the woods eat us up.

I wanted to show you the mossy chimney piles
that marked the graves of the old slave houses,
but the last orange light of the day guttered out

and I got caught up in a tangle of sharp little briers
before I ever got to show you any ruins.
Anyway, you would never have understood

the way clay bricks and involuntary servitude
ring like church bells deep in my chest,
the way rusty nails in the dirt hum hymnals to me,

the way broken pieces of painted porcelain
laid down under a century of poison ivy
remind me of the heart I wanted to give you.

The sun gave up on us before I unthorned myself.
I held your hand and you and I sweated together
into the hot blue swelter of August twilight

and instead of dusty bits of archaeology
I held your face and you pushed me against an oak
and kissed my mouth like it meant something.

In the dim dark heat you told me you hated
the weather down here in Alabama
and I knew even if I hated it too

you’d never stay here and I’d never leave.

— Adam Kamerer

Behind The Scenes

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long after you are a breath of smoke
I remember snatches of you:

we sit at your kitchen table
you smooth your skirt across your thigh
and rain comes down outside the window
and you tell me you think
you will go back to your husband soon
because the separation is heavy
on your youngest daughter
but you reach out your fingertips
to rub them against my wrist
tell me today is not soon

but before that you sit in sunshine
beside the Tennessee river
as little boats glide the water
beneath the gray O’Neal Bridge
you hold yellow flowers
even though the morning is cold
and I hold your black braided hair
you tell me he never liked little boats
or cold river mornings
or yellow flowers or your hair
and you tell me you want me
for whatever kind of ever forever is

but before that you come
to my apartment at midnight
you sit at my feet and unclothe yourself
you teach me the names of your body
he told you was too dirty to love:
your soft pressures of your gentle fingertips
and your small sharpness of your fingernails
your teeth on my thumb in your mouth
you hold my wrist with both hands
you unheavy all your quaking reveries
and tell me with a sob in your throat
that you just needed my hands tonight
to touch you the way he won’t
you tell me you want to get him out of you
and you want to put me inside

long after you are a breath of smoke
I wake in the middle of the night
with your name a drum thump in my head
the bones in my wrist ache
if you came out of nowhere today
and told me to hold your breath
I think I would cup my hands and wait

— Adam Kamerer

Behind The Scenes

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You order fancy sprinkles
off the Internet. Twenty bucks
for a small jar of bright glitter

and when they come in,
you sail away into the kitchen,
gathering cosmic dusts:

sifted flour, cocoa solids,
granulated sugar, a scatter of salt,
and other celestial bodies:

yellow yolks like suns,
a milky way of cream and vanilla,
soft butter, drops of color.

You poured this batter of starstuff
into a pan black as space
then the long heat, the longer cooling,

until you finished with
a glossy blue-black glaze
and your jar of sprinkles

and finally, you cut a wedge
to reveal brilliant colors:
the swirling nebula within,

handed me a fork
and asked me what I thought:
this cake is so much like you,

until the first sweet bite,
I never knew I could taste stars.

— Adam Kamerer


Behind The Scenes

Want to know the story behind this poem? Patrons who pledge $5/month or more get access to behind-the-scenes notes on my poems.

Pennies from Heaven

I find pennies on the asphalt
and on the hardest days,
now and then, a dime

and once when the world
was falling on itself
the bright disc
of a silver half-dollar.

Every time, I drop the coins
into the palm of your hand
and you drop the coins
into a jar of blue glass
and pay me for my scavenging
with the whisper of a smile.

I have come to require
this secret pleasure so often
my eyes are always at the ground.


The rain coming down
has filled up the ditch
at the edge of the yard.

A little more and it will
swallow up the driveway
and separate us
from the world
by a little gulf
of brown rain water.

As a child I used to dig
moats around the castles
I built out of pinecones
and tin cans and pour
pailfuls of water into them.

They never held water:
drought thirsty Alabama dirt
sucked every drop down
and just left muddy damp divots
and I’m pretty sure the ditch
at the edge of the yard
will dry up just the same

but for the moment
I am alone with you
pretending this old house
is a castle overgrown with moss
and the drawbridge is up
so no one can disturb us.

Asleep Through Storms

This morning starts with downpour.
No gentle bloom of sun beam
through the bedroom window,
no chirrup and warble of bird song.

This morning starts with flash
and thunder, with crash and clamor,
with the great old pine in the yard
groaning in the wind,
but you sleep through it
and I do not.

The room is dark
and the rain drives down
and the shape of your body
twisted in the sheets
is a stillness the world
forgot to keep this morning.

I want you to know this
is how I think of you often:
a moment of rest in deluge,
a moment of peace in cloudburst,
a quiet in the shouting gale.

What Happens To Me When You Laugh

What happens to me when you laugh: my lips desire
your laughing lips; my hands desire your skin beneath them;
my mouth all of your playful mouth.

Your laughter unwinds the knots in my limbs,
it softens the hardness calcified on these poets’ bones,
your laughter shushes my nervous belly gnawing.

You laugh and all the worries of my world fall away.