Anita Sullivan

Anita Sullivan

Anita Sullivan is a poet, gardener, translator, birdwatcher, rock art enthusiast and piano tuner.

She has published two essay collections, two poetry chapbooks, and a full length book of poems Garden of Beasts (Airlie Press, 2010). She is active in the literary community of her home city, Eugene, Oregon.

Please visit Anita’s website:



A Love Odyssey on a Greek Island

(from “Getting Around,” Chapter 5)


The bus lets me off at the end of a dirt road leading uphill. In the absence of any signs, buildings, or other people, I start walking up the road. It will lead somewhere, even if not to the Valley of the Butterflies I have been told about.
     The road makes a sharp turn to the right, goes downhill and suddenly I am in a small woods. The road ends at what seems to be a parking lot, and sure enough, I see the word “Petalouthes” (“Butterflies,” although in Greek the word means “Flying Flowers). A few cars are parked, and there is almost total silence. Then I read the many small signs tacked to a row of trees: ‘Do not Whistle, Do not Clap, Do not Shake the Branches, Do not Wake the Butterflies.’
     After that I enter the small verdant park, and sure enough, clustered along many twigs and branches I see butterflies with folded wings. I could be in a church full of tiny angels. I almost stop breathing as I gaze and gaze. These butterflies (which are technically some species of moth) come here every year like salmon, to breed and die. They are black and white on the outside, but now and then a butterfly makes a short sleepy flight to a different perch, and a red-orange beam comes stabbing out from the inner lining of the wing—a banked fire.
     On and on I wander (tiptoe) into the park, until I realize I have left the compound and gone back to private land again, though there is no outer fence. I come to a stone arch at the end of a narrow path. Beyond it is an iron gate closed and tied with a clothesline. A fig tree stands beside the gate, and beyond it, just through the arch, I can see an overgrown garden. Oleander blooms beneath the huge plane tree in its center, and roses, and I see a single red geranium poking out of the undergrowth. The path continues around to an old villa. It too, is completely overgrown. Nobody has tended this garden in many a long day, but never mind, I recognize it; I was born here, and now for the second time in my life I have been allowed to enter this place. From the other side of the villa, the side away from the garden, I am sure you can glimpse the sea. Likely if I come here again tomorrow, the place will have vanished.

In the Valley

Do not whistle. Do not clap. Do not Shake the Branches.
Do not Wake the Butterflies

(Sign at the entrance to the ‘Valley of the Butterflies,’ a
refuge for migrating butterflies on Paros)

And if they were to awaken before their time?

This is a park, just a park (I remind myself)
full of bushes, bushes full of leaves,
clusters of them, black and white,
Merely insects rest, they will not rise up, will not
funnel themselves into
one Great Pinion, blotting out
the sun.
(Have you ever seen a butterfly’s shadow?)

Other people get out of their cars, closing the doors
softly, all of us foolishly rotating our heads –
Where are they?

a single leaf unfolds, stretches in its sleep, and
flashes a beam
of red-orange.
I spin, holding my throat, it closes.

Could this be? The central, the universal fires
spend most of their time – smoldering?

Deeper into the garden I wander, (the oleander,
the geranium, the rose), my
feet fall softly on the winding paths,
one of my many secret hearts has been

All poetry/prose on this post: © Anita Sullivan
Published with the permission of Anita Sullivan