A Woman Writes the Unicorn Butterfly

Geri Lipschultz

Before her arrival—without the tendril and buds—her mother had wanted a boy. Later, she would make vaginas everywhere, shifting her arms to see the cleft between forearm and upper arm, to see mushed flesh between a calf folded against thigh, between her thumb and forefinger. She stared at the boys, scanning their pants for the landscape behind a zipper. She wished for a brother. In her dreams, men came for rape and pillage.She prayed for death after an assault, but like so many she did live, with a blackened chest and neck that she tried to hide one summer, and someone spotted the purple swell and laughed, remarked about all that fun.

A girl writer and by birth a Jew, she would go swimming in the soup of words ground into fish and covered with horseradish, purple and white.With the blank page before her unraveled soul, that dust pile, she was Samson blinded, but the Philistines were her own microbes. She let them fester; she let them breed for her own inertia. She wondered where to go? She would eat the sounds of birds, the grubbing of traffic. Her words in various stages of stripping, the model half-clothed.

She had the hook but lost the fish, knowing there were many to catch, all to return to the sea. She heard the troubles of the world in birdsong, the knife in the neck of a Kentucky boy—she heard his sob, the boy who would forever be the age of her own son now, that very minute, where he was typing in an office. The boy killed by other boys, who came from behind. He dies in the narrative of their lives, an ice cream truck of sound, to hide all the killing boys. She has read their books, the books of so many boys. But boys remained the full mystery. She could not configure them with her body parts. Their smells were not her smells. And yet she loved them, knowing they thought she smelled like fish. And what did they smell like? Ass or bleach in their parts? That smell of blood, girls and boys equal in that regard, in their death smells, their waters, the fermenting of them, the smell of their joint creations. She wrote: “a full mystery to me; I cannot configure them with my body parts. Their smells are not my smells.” 

Yes, she loved them, even if their numbers and letters, void of smells, were far deadlier than the smell of blood, but theirs, the metal and steel, the varnish and chemical, the nuclear smell was an evil beyond lava, beyond tsunami or sirocco, something so alien the Martians must’ve whispered to a man in his worst nightmare, or maybe he was praying to some bad god, some Mephistophelian reject, that evil … as if to say, yes, human, yes, I’ll gladly give you power to blow up your toes, and the rot will spread upward, because my dear human, your heart is stone, and your brains are like octopi, but you yourself have neither the nurturing nor the instinct to know just how ugly you are …

Where would this thought go? Her children, the one at the desk, the one at a school, and the children who weren’t hers, but weren’t all children hers? Okay, she thought. How does this go? It just goes, then! The seeds … the gentle ones … the meekness of seeds, the camouflage of seeds … and those seeds are outside of me now, those that were once in me … my seeds that needed a worm not a bee … a butterfly with the unicorn horn came to fertilize them … and my children now, part unicorn butterfly, part human … oh, fly to the home of that pet of mine, that sky.

She wrote about seeds now, now that she was thinking about birth. They can put you to sleep for it, or you can stay fully awake, as she did, but it was irrelevant in the end.She wrote, “It’s killing, not birthing, that makes the news.” The details are gruesome, the details of birth. There’s nothing romantic until the clean up, which takes about a month.“We are dirty, disgusting creatures, ask us, we’ll tell you.” She wrote that, and this, too: “Ask the scholars of religion and philosophy, they’ll tell you too. We come with soil, we come with ocean, and we come ready to take in the smell of bleach. We come ready to stand up and have it leaking from us. We learn to walk on our hands, as any attempt to keep the semen in while upright goes against the rules. Ready or not, here we come. We conceive with your blessing of nectar. Throw your line in and cast around, we’ll catch you a fish. It’ll come with the caul. It’ll come with the unicorn butterfly to split us wide open dragging it in.”


Geri Lipschultz has an MFA from Iowa and a PhD from Ohio University. She has work forthcoming in DISARM, by Black Heart Publishing and in great weather for MEDIA. She has published in the New York Times, College English, Kalliope, and Black Warrior Review among others. She has a story and a poem in Pearson’s college anthology, Literature: Introduction to Reading and Writing, as well as a story in Spuyten Duyvil’s The Wreckage of Reason II. Her books have been finalists for Eyewear Publishing, Subito Press, Gertrude Press, Black Lawrence Press and for Iron Horse Literary Review. She was awarded a Creative Artists in Public Service grant from New York State, and her one-woman show was produced by Woodie King, Jr. in NYC.