The Butterfly Effect
by Eveline Pye
In the flower power sixties, a flutter
of butterflies flashed black-rimmed wings
— tiny stained glass windows
grabbing sunlight, a kaleidoscope
of peacocks, adonis blues, red admirals,
purple hairstreaks, orange tips.
This abundance is no trick of memory
airbrushing childhood summers
— its decimation recorded
for half a century by volunteers
who squatted in damp grass
counting absence on clipboards.
Sensitive to changes in climate
in our warmer winters, the adults emerge
from chrysalides too soon, cling on
unable to flap their frosted wings
or suck nectar through straw tongues
die rigid as sugar confections.
We decide to order a cup of caterpillars
and three weeks later, release
five painted ladies. In chaos theory,
one butterfly can flap its wings,
turn a tornado in Texas —
who knows what five will achieve.