The Butterfly Effect

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The Butterfly Effect

       "Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?"

          ~ Philip Merilees

       "Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!"

          ~ Ray Bradbury, "A Sound of Thunder"

It sits with wings spread open, like a book

about to be read, unmoving, so still,

you cannot be sure at first if it's real.

The shock of teal, vermillion, purple, black,

splashed upon the open pages of its wings

so brilliant compared to the dull grey rock on which it sits

it seems fabricated, too vivid to be constructed by nature.

You move in, slowly, not wanting to startle

the creature away, and you allow yourself to forget,

for a moment, that your lunch break is almost over,

that you can't afford to be late, that another fight

with your four-year boyfriend over finances

could snap the slender thread of your relationship,

forget, in essence, everything but this small, insignificant insect,

which has so captured you. The soft powder coating

of its wings almost makes them luminescent,

and their glistening allure reminds you

of starlight, of lightening bugs in summer,

of childhood days catching beetles in jars,

watching them hobble about the glass interior,

carapaces shinning. The butterfly's wings angle up,

raising, lowering, and you can't fully explain, even to yourself, why

this moves you, your chest tightening, your eyes wet

with unleashed tears, your heart sputtering,

except that you cannot remember the last time

you saw something so fragile, so beautiful.

The wings flutter and the butterfly bobs

into flight, dipping away, lilting back, forth and back,

again and again, a dancing, flirting fragment

of color. You can almost feel the whisper of air cast

by its tiny wings like an invisible kiss upon your cheek

before it skips away across the field, the breath of its wings

it seems, stirring the leaves in the trees above your head.

Closing your eyes, you feel lightened, your chest

emptied out, clean. It is midday, but it feels like dawn,

like an awakening, as though the first domino

has tipped over to click against the next, the start

of a chain reaction, a cascade of new possibility.


Note: The quotes were found as I was researching "the butterfly effect" (thank you to @chemicalnoise for providing the prompt) for inspiration. I'm not entirely sure they fit the poem, but I love the concept of chaos theory and it's offshoot theory of the butterfly effect, how in the case of complex systems, a small action, such as a butterfly flapping its wings in one locations, can have dramatic consequences in an entirely different part of the world, such as a storm. It seems sometimes, the same sort of cause and effect can happen in one's own life, that a small moment taken to appreciate beauty can ultimately change everything.

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