The Butterfly Poem


Stop beating your wings against my windowpane!
Wings are more fragile than glass, you know.
You don’t have long to live, you know.
Stay out here with me.  Help me write this poem.
You and I belong out here, not trapped inside.

Like all poets I write about dying,
not death.  Dying is harder.
We need to wake  to love and pain.
But you who have such little time,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              don’t try to go too soon below.

Painters look around to see what’s here,
find butterflies trying hard to die.
Sometimes paint what they cannot see                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        in colors bright or dim, or hardly there.
No, I won’t bore you with my woes today.

Your wings so shiny black!
How you power them no one knows.
Where you come from no one knows
or where you go–or even I–
oh, if you could only teach me to how to fly!


We poets usually find another time
to die, not by giving up like you.
The old refrain we hear inside
pushes us on or gives us pause.
Music and love is what it’s all about.

And you, do you hear sounds of love?
Hear my heart right now, beating low?
Hear quiet thoughts inside my head?
Maybe you know much more than I,
or do you flutter about unconsciously?

“Art for art’s sake!” a painter shouts,
knowing his life will sputter out.
But what he does will stay and stay,
keep him alive beyond his day.
Flutterby, take a lesson from him today.


Could you be more than beauty robed in black?
Can butterflies be souls of loved ones lost,
come back to lift a troubled lonely mate
at times like this when feeling all alone,
remembering our headlong rush to love?

If so, I bless thee, mute angelic friend,
wish Godspeed on your trip back home,
memorialize your visit in heartfelt words.
Dare I say your name, my lovely wife?
Dare I whisper, come to me tonight?

Stephenson         Fall, 2017