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Don't Ask the Butterfly - A Poem

Updated on November 7, 2011
Monarch Butterfly - Painted in PhotoShop by the author
Monarch Butterfly - Painted in PhotoShop by the author

This poem is an attempt to describe in poetic form some of my philosophies of life, touching on human behavorial norms and how they can influence important decisions.

I found myself, one dismal day, alone with all I brought from birth.
The sand beneath me marked my trail, which spoke of bondage to the earth.
I saw beside my wand’ring path a trail of labored steps so small—
But straight and sure the furrows carved a path of purpose through the pall.

I smirked and thought, “What creature here to earth is bound and knows not doom—
“But trudges on o’er rock and hill, some point or goal he thinks to groom?”
In little time I overtook a caterpillar crawling,
And said to him, “Relax, my friend, for life is surely galling.”
But he, to me, did turn and ask, “What is it that you say?
“But never mind, I have to go and do my thing today.
“But walk with me, and you will learn a secret I will share;
“Your freedom gain, but work and faith must surely be your fare.”
“You think to teach a man?” I said. “Presumptuous fool you are!
“’Twixt you and I, who’s faster, now, and handsomer by far?
“Out yon’ I see the butterfly—to her I’ll turn my ear;
“For she has won the victory—her story should be clear.”

So off I ran to ask of her the story of her life:
“With grace and beauty you can fly, and do so without strife.”
“Indeed,” she said. “How right you are. How easy is my day.
“I did my thing, then spread my wings, and now it’s time to play.
“I’ll run along, but you can chase and catch me if you can,
“We’ll romp and play throughout the day, enjoying the air and land.”

I leapt at her, encouraged now, but off at once she flew.
I chased her through the meadow’s grass and under skies of blue.
She took her refuge in the oak, and up I climbed with stealth and pride.
But when she took her flight again, I leapt with fullest thrust and wide—
And down again to earth I fell, resounding with a thud:
The wind from me was knocked right out— I groveled in the mud.
The butterfly, her patience gone, was turning off to fly.
She said to me, “You’re not like me, I’m taking to the sky.”

My wounds were deep, my sorrow strong, I bowed down with defeat.
But slow and sure I gained some strength and labored to my feet.
Again I wandered through the sand, but treading now with stronger force—
Resolving here to search anew the caterpillar’s course.
At length I saw the path so straight and hastened to the spot
To take up where I left off, once, without so much a thought.
But right away I saw a sight where labored tracks did bring—
A butterfly, its prison shed, against the sky did spread its wings.
It flew away without “farewell” and never more of me he thought.
I stood alone to face the truth of what this scene had wrought:
I thus had lost the race to him—a lowly creature homely and slow
Who overcame the clutches of earth through some dark secret here below.

I wept beside the fading trail and hoped for clues from his cocoon.
But there I stayed ‘til day was done, to meet the night without a moon.
The shroud of darkness held me still and silence sank to levels deep.
I couldn’t see, except within—I couldn’t go unless to sleep.
But as my soul to slumber sank, I felt a part of me break free
And slip away to catacombs, something dark that came with me.
How long I slept, I do not know; it could have been eternity—
For endless was my sorrow then, and infinite my gravity.

At first so dim, and then more bold, a tune did stir my soul to wake.
I looked to see whence came the song, and saw a trail so small and straight.
I found, this time, a handsome one—though quite the same as yesterday’s.
He turned and asked me with a grin, if I would walk with him a ways.
A pace behind but close I followed, bending near to hear his song.
And settling deep into my heart, I heard his language coming strong.
Of work, not words, his song was made—a harsh reality he’d sung:
He spoke a language made for us, not of those whose work is done.


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