Jessica Lee


As a child, I called all beautiful
creatures she: mallard

        ducks with emerald heads, male
peacocks with their royal trains.

All caterpillars, likewise,
were women, inching

        gracefully across plain
sticks, nothing quivering

but their soft tresses, costumes
as elaborate as fishing

        flies. Like women, they’d find
the right limb, adorn

themselves in ballooning
gowns and emerge transformed

        from cat to butter,
from pillar to fly.


I quickly learned I was
the thing to be renamed

        fell in love &

scrawled Reed in red
ink, willing transformation.


Does it start with a name?
Or does something come before?

        A telephone call, simple silver
band, treacle tart perhaps (though
you don’t know what that is)
something as small as a Q tip to tickle

        your inner ear drum, make
you hear yourself

as someone else.


A name is the hard
shell, the chrysalis,

        gluing eyes and wings
to body. There is no feeding

in limbo, just the words

        ripen and evolve, and you

rolling Reed on your tongue.


Jessica Lee is the Poetry Editor of Sweet Tree Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Literary Review, BOAAT, The Boiler, cream city review, DIAGRAM, Fugue, and elsewhere. Her poem “I confess, I don’t know what to call this” was a finalist for the 2017 So to Speak Poetry Contest. Find her online at

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