Literature Annotations


Bryner, Jeanne
Butterfly


Genre Poem
KeywordsAIDS, Body Self-Image, Caregivers, Empathy, Human Worth, Infectious Disease, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Issues, Nursing, Sexuality
SummaryThe nurse reflects on the men in the room with "B" for "blood hazard" on their door. They are too weak to make love, but they still take care of one another: "as they press cool cloths to foreheads, / pass tissues for sticky green phlegm." Being only human, when she enters their room and they cough, she confesses that "something inside me stiffens." Yet she sees them as "half a butterfly on gray cement . . . . " She cares and she wants them to know that she cares, these men who "are migrating back to the cocoon, / the place where brown masks / protect the unbeautiful.
CommentaryA very tender, yet graphic, poem about young men dying of AIDS. See also the database entries on Thom Gunn's collection, The Man with Night Sweats; and the poems Atlantis (Mark Doty) and The Distant Moon, and Towards Curing AIDS (Rafael Campo).
SourceBreathless
PublisherKent State Univ. Press
Edition1995
Place PublishedKent, Ohio
Alternate SourceBetween the Heartbeats
Alternate PublisherUniv. of Iowa Press
Alternate Edition1995
Alternate EditorsCortney Davis & Judy Schaefer
Place PublishedIowa City, Iowa
Annotated by Coulehan, Jack
Date of Entry 06/13/96
Last Revised 10/18/99