Butterfly II

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days
- Frank O'Hara

It was Frank O’Hara’s birthday on March 27. I like his style.

Today, running again. And the butterfly again. Just at the end of the run, on a narrow dirt path, as I was thinking of the “paths of hope” that refugees and other lost souls follow, the butterfly surprised me, as she was right there in the path and took off just as I passed, but flew along the path in front of me and landed again. I stopped running and watched. Always so facinated by the butterfly. Ephemeral beauty in transformation. She flew again, but just a few meters, and again, landed in the path. I picked some flowers and slowly approached. This time, she didn’t take off, and this surprised me. I got closer and closer. Even putting the flowers just in front of her face, hoping she’d decide to crawl onto the bouquet, but instead she just fluttered a few feet away and landed again. This time I sat down next to her and I could see why she wasn’t flying away. Her wing, her left wing, was broken. In my first post, I wrote about snatching a butterfly, pinching its wings between my thumb and finger. The shame and fear at what I had done, not even sure what I was trying to do except hold a butterfly. Well, this could simply not be the same butterfly. But, yet, the broken wing looked exactly to me as if someone had pinched it between their thumb and finger and the bottom part had ripped off. The shape of the tear where the bottom part of the wing used to be was just that shape. I was stunned. And scared. And sincerely thinking, Could this be the same butterfly? She would fly, flutter away, but it seemed, because of the broken wing, she could only go a few meters high, and a few meters away. And I would follow her. Get closer to her as she rested on the path of hope, and then she’d take off again. Twice, she flew right at me, and I would quickly dodge out of the way, not sure if she was attacking or just desperately confused, or both. She started to fly back up the path, and I kept following. When she landed, I could see her struggling, the wings falling to the ground. I thought of running home to get a glass or something to capture her in. I wished I had my phone camera with me, something to document what was clearly a sign. But, instead I just sat by her side, wondering what had happened, what was going to happen. Would a bird take her? Or some other insects? How do butterflies die? I tried again to guide her off the path, into the flowering plants, but she seemed to prefer the sun warmed path. A place for hopeful respite. I thought of this lyric from a Pearl Jam song called 7 o’clock:

“Caught the butterfly, broke its wing then put it on display
Was stripped of all its beauty once it could not fly high away”

I watched this butterfly for a long, long time. I followed her along that path when she fluttered away, and sat with her when she landed, trying to decide what to do. Finally…

I stood up, raised my foot, and crushed her under my shoe.

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