A Breath of Wings

This poem at albits seems to me to describe the ways of a butterfly better than anything I’ve ever read. I used the word capture instead of describe at first, but that word sounds too violent for what the poet has accomplished, in engaging respectfully with such an otherworldly and mysterious fellow creature.

Recently I listened to Antonio López talk about what it means to have a technological perspective on our world. He self-consciously follows the thought of George P. Grant in noting that just by being inhabitants of this culture we live in, we tend to absorb and display a somewhat fragmented and fragmenting attitude toward the people and things around us, failing to see them as whole beings, seeing everything as “piles of stuff” that we may use or manipulate or control at will. He wants us to see the connectedness of everything, and to respect the interiority of each creature, and “let be.”

Some have said that for a writer, “everything is material,” meaning, everything we see, whatever happens to us throughout our days, appears to us as something to write about, something we long to distill into words so that we can know it better and share it with other humans.

It occurs to me that to have this attitude as my first impulse may be an example of this less than fully human, technological perspective; I immediately impose my thoughts and presuppositions on the thing or person before me. But that habit works against my deeper and purer self. If I want to be fully present with the world, with the people and things in it, I need to restrain my mind’s impulsive and constant forming of sentences, at least long enough to let my heart meet the heart of the “other,” and know communion.

Perhaps that is what this poet was able to do when he met a butterfly. It would explain how he was able to catch, not just the first thoughts that came to mind, but this divine vision to share with us.

A BREATH OF WINGS

Walking out with the trash
I saw a butterfly flash by

In a wink and a bright splash
Of light. It made me wish

The yard were lined in rich
Leafy plants that might catch

Her eye in the search for a place
To settle. How could I guess

That she’d choose a blank wedge
Of sidewalk next to my garage

Where grey concrete met brick
And no perch seemed attractive

To a breath from delicate wings.
That’s how I saw her, as a trick

Of nature: two fans of gauze
Waving crazily in the evening air,

Nothing more, nothing else there
But color that seemed to disappear

As she lit. What remained was a stick
On the ground with a flat brown flag:

The wings had closed up tight.
Was she taking a nap, I thought,

Or holding her breath in fear
Of me standing there, a sag

In my face, the blank mind caught,
Transfixed in a magical nowhere

Between this–and the next–flight.

-Albert Salsich

I like the way the sentences sometimes don’t match the lines of the couplets exactly, so that the rhythm of the poem mimics the way a butterfly swoops and flutters, “waving crazily,” and then surprises you when it comes to an abrupt stop on a flower or a sidewalk. It is a good one to read aloud.

The beholding of a butterfly was a gift of grace to the poet, and through his labor of love I’ve been doubly blessed: Through this vicarious meeting I have an expanded appreciation of butterflies, and also the joy of encountering an uplifting poem. I’m afraid to say much more about all the words — I did once write on words for this insect — and the form of the poem because I will get carried away in enthusiastic speculation and wonder, and never make it outside to look at more butterflies.

I hope you all might see a butterfly today!

butterfly-9-16-16

8 thoughts on “A Breath of Wings

  1. My son, Josh, has a Facebook album full of photos of butterflies, caterpillars and other spectacular bugs that land on their front porch in rural Kentucky. I’m constantly amazed at the variety of creatures God has made! And it’s nice to see that my son has retained a childlike curiosity and fascination about these little miracles. 🙂

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  2. Love! Just yesterday I saw a butterfly on the grapevine. I haven’t seen it before and still need to look it up. I managed to take a picture of it, but I haven’t had a chance yet to see if it came out. Here’s to hoping it does!

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  3. I like this post…a lot… I do. Yes, the mantra that “everything is material” or as it is often stated, “everything is copy” could interfere with ever so much living.

    Such interesting poems you find and share. Thank you.

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  4. I think I may have seen a Monarch today — the first of the migration. These lines really caught me:

    “What remained was a stick
    On the ground with a flat brown flag…”

    There’s a butterfly here that looks like a dry, brown leaf when it’s at rest. I’ll see if I can find the photo of it in my files tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My next-door-neighbor grandkids are always on the look out for butterflies, nets in hands. They’ve become very attentive and smart about them. It thrills my heart that they are so in tune with nature surrounding them.

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