Butterfly Poetry and Critique by Elizabeth Gordon

Elizabeth Gordon

Elizabeth Gordon

 A New Poem, with Some Comments on Its Origin by Elizabeth Gordon

fall monarch butterfly

fall monarch butterfly

MONARCH
for Mary Ellen
What is love for
if not to give
to a poisonous insect?
Love should be challenging.
Where’s the thrill
in loving puppies or ponies
dimpled babies or cheery daffodils?
Love instead
the wormlike larva
whose first meal is the eggshell it squirmed from
who by its own gluttony outgrows its body four times
and four times eats its own shedded skin
before wrapping itself inside a green tomb
that morphs into a womb
and wetly births
a six-legged thing
with the compound eyes of a fly
a tongue like a coiled spring
and silent beating black-veined wings.
Love the one who will not cuddle in your lap
who cannot admire or obey or exude perfume
whose color says
consider this a warning.
Love anyway.
Love the one who takes your hospitality
and your nectary hope
and the prayers you pray
and leaves you
always leaves you
staring at the sky
your eyes stinging in the wind
waiting for that spark of orange fire
to light your world again.
____________________________________________

Background:

I’d been invited to participate in a poetry reading in honor of Earth Day 2013 at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist church, which my husband and I had recently joined. But what to read?

Always heedful—perhaps too heedful—of others’ expectations, I assumed most people would be anticipating poetry that celebrated the glories of nature: the sunrises and sunsets, the flowers, the seasons, the birdsong, the purple mountains’ majesty—you get the picture. Not that I don’t find “nature” glorious (though even the attempt to define nature, much less enumerate its glories, leads to its own predicaments), but the nature in my poems has seldom been the kind that’s traditionally celebrated. Meaning, I suppose, that it’s neither inspirational nor ephemeral. I like things gritty. Always have.

When others search the skies for rainbows, I’m squatting in the leaf duff, budging half-rotten logs, hoping to meet the shy creatures hiding in that beautiful, dank darkness. Maybe because I felt icky about myself for much of my childhood (okay, for much of my adulthood too), I’m drawn to facets of the planet that most others find icky, or at least not worthy of positive attention. These are my peeps: the silent, coiled and uncoiling snake; the slow and sticky-skinned salamander; the mantis twisting her neck in a measured swivel; the tiny, purposeful ant bearing his impossible load; the spent dairy cow, knees crumpling, being thrashed to keep her walking those final, painful steps toward the kill line.

On the other hand—and, somehow, there must always be an other hand—I’d met an amazing woman at the UU who seemed to me to embody a love and zeal for the natural world that was based not on hokey clichés but on genuine knowledge. Mary Ellen Ryall puts her science and her wisdom and her concern into action. This I admire immensely. Though she is known primarily for her expertise on butterflies, especially the monarch, Mary Ellen understands that the monarch is part of something much, much bigger—the “biotic community” that Aldo Leopold describes in A Sand County Almanac(1948):

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

I decided I wanted to write a new poem for the Earth Day reading, and since I’d been so inspired by Mary Ellen’s grace, intelligence, and passion for all earth’s inhabitants, I thought I’d try to write one for her. Of course, it had to be about her beloved monarch butterfly. But me being me, I knew that my poem had to be gritty, by which I mean not ugly or intentionally bleak, but simply real. And it occurred to me that the way to do this would be to write a poem that reminded us that butterflies belong to that despised category of animal life colloquially known as “bugs.” Scientifically, the classInsecta, which includes reviled species such as flies, mosquitos, termites, wasps, and cockroaches. Somehow, because our culture has sentimentalized and romanticized butterflies as symbols of beauty, the fact that they are (poisonous!) insects (and not “flying flowers”) escapes us.

(There’s a wonderful short story, “Butterflies,” by Maori author Patricia Grace that hinges on, among other things, the disconnect between those who understand the butterfly as a biological creature and those for whom it is merely the representation of an idea. When I teach this story in my college writing classes, almost every student—not surprisingly—fails to “get it.” Does our biotic community’s critical condition have anything to do with the fact that we’ve allowed connotation to obscure denotation? I believe so.)

That’s why my poem emphasizes the creatureliness, not the symbolization, of the monarch. To honor a thing, we must know it, insofar as we can, for what it is, which to me is more important than what itmeans—or rather, maybe I’m trying to say that what something means cannot/should not be distinct from what it actually is. Which reminds me of the last lines of Archibald Macleish’s poem “Ars Poetica”:

        A poem should not mean

        But be.

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Welcome

by Susan Engebrecht

Roadways and water lead to a tract of land where plants,
people, birds, and butterflies gather.
Sounds of traffic and beach laughter drift through
this windowless sanctuary.
Under the roof of a blue or rainy sky
joy, color, life, and remembrances are shared.
Herbs, flowers, and tree weave tapestries
that flutter in this wall-less place.
The pock-marked floor is patterned
with human and wildlife footfalls.
The four direction rocks act as anchors while
benches of stone and wood offer rest.
Land blessed by human tradition and nature
offers sanctuary to all that enter.

Republished with copyright permission from Happy Tonics, Inc.

Father Keith Mason wins Editor’s Choice Award

Father Keith Mason was awarded a prestigious Editor’s Choice Award for his poem, “The Cars Rush By.”  The International Library of Poetry reported that the poem displayed a unique perspective and original creativity – judged to be the qualities most found in exceptional poetry.

Father Keith Mason

Father Keith Mason

The Award was presented to Father Keith in October 2004.

Father Keith and I attend the  weekly Joy of Writing group,  in Fitchburg, MA, on Tuesday, at 12:30 p.m., at Fitchburg Senior Center. Father Keith gave me permission to publish his poem and share with Butterfly Woman Publishing followers and friends.

The Cars Rush By …

(A meditative poem-prayer)

Early morning, in a small suburban city,
off to work and play: the cars rush by on the street,
outside, as I kneel to pray and sit to meditate
in a building called, “the Church.”

On the street, a few feet away, a car – – –
“My GOD, I feel your presence . . .  My GOD . . .
A car – – – SWOOSH!

The cars rush by. I think, I meditate,
“Yes Father, Holy Father GOD,
this building, ‘the Church,’ is truly your house,
a place to worship, prayer ad Christian love.”

The cars rush by. “My GOD, if for one moment
I thought . . . you are HERE only,
I could not live or even breathe!”

The cars rush by. “Yes, Father GOD, you are here
AND out there, on the street, in every car!
Your crowning glory is not the buildings, or the cars,
but the people in them!”

The cars rush by. I pray, I meditate.

Father Keith W. Mason

     Published previously in the International Devotional Booklet, FORWARD Day by Day, by the Forward Movement Publications, Cincinnati, Ohio, Lent-Easter, 1971 A.D.

Lori Pirone a young Visual Artist in Brooklyn, NY creates Video

Lori Pirone, Brooklyn, NY, and I spoke sometime after August 26, 2011. She had read my book My Name is Butterfly online through Amazon. Lori asked my advice about publishing and she mailed me a copy of her work titled Transform. The Visual Art script wanted critiquing . I read it and gave a few suggestions about the content in its relationship to butterflies.

I suggested Lori learn how to create a Blog in order to start publishing. She created a Visual Arts Blog that expresses her complex thoughts and added visual art, music and poetry to the mix. I am amazed at how quickly she adapted and is using media. poetry and music to create Resurrection. I am enchanted with her work.

It reminds me of youth today of which Lori is one. They are questioning what the world has to offer them and future generations? I can feel their questions about society. There is a disconnect between what youth of today are experiencing in a global economic meltdown and what 1 percent of the population experiences in  an economic divide.  I think perhaps Resurrection speaks to the Occupy Movement.

Many kindred spirits are connected in a spider web of primitive knowledge. We have resonated the vibration and learned much from ancestors and Native Americans who have co-existed along side of dominant society for hundreds if not thousands of years. They do not assimilate and either do we.

We are all connected to each other and the forest, plants, fish, birds, animals, water and sky. We are all part of a primitive Earth that is a virtual Garden of Eden. We want to preserve it and leave a footprint of peace, economic wellness and nature for future generations.

I believe that Lori is just at the tip of sharing her introspection of the world through her eyes and Visual Arts . I expect great things of her. This young woman is talented. Keep your eye on Lori and her Blog at http://restoreconsciousness.blogspot.com/2011/11/starhorizon-on-line-mini-series-to.html