Northwords Now Issue 39

The FREE literary magazine of the North

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.