Treasure Island

Christopher Apfelbach

(July 1,1990 / Burlington, VT)

The Buddha and The Butterfly


Chance and chance alone
saved the butterfly
as I was mowing.

I had paused to pass my hand,
acrid with field grit,
across my forehead,

and the gluttonous blades
had lost their appetite
for milkweed and chicory.

The sky was just the right shade
of sunset, and the clouds
looked like fiery escapees

of the horizon's menagerie.
There in the shortened stalks,
I found a little butterfly

who had stayed behind
from the great wide open,
flexing tawny wings

in front of the machine
as if reenacting the massacre
of Tiananmen Square

in miniature, just for me.
If he had felt the hurricane
only a few seconds prior

(which, if the Butterfly Effect
is to be believed,
might have been the work

of a different Monarch
in Siberia or Sumatra)
he did not show it,

but continued on unperturbed,
the tiny sovereign of the fields.
I scooped his ochre body up

without a moment's hesitation
and released him to the wind.
But I found myself thinking

about those Buddhist monks
who send apprentices
scurrying ahead with brooms

so that they will not crush
even an ant with their feet,
realizing, perhaps, that ugliness

does not make a thing any less
deserving of salvation.
And such was my disgust

at having spared the butterfly
for no better reason
than his lovely, empty wings

(especially when no amount
of apprentices or brooms could
bring back the crickets and ants

left dead by my lethal sweeping)
that I wondered briefly
whether mowing over the next

butterfly who fluttered by
would suffice to prove
that the world was, in fact, fair.

Submitted: Thursday, August 09, 2012
Edited: Thursday, August 09, 2012
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  • Frank James Ryan Jr...fjr (8/9/2012 12:58:00 AM)

    Astute, erudite penning...Your title reminded me of a very old Cat Stevens vinyl, (Before he changed his name, zip code and mantra) titled Buddha And The Chocolate Box...1975........Enjoyed this pen-gem ~FjR~ (Report) Reply

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