Sunday, September 23, 2007

White Butterflies

I'm crazy about this poem by Mary Oliver, from her collection called "West Wind" (1997). In fact, I'm crazy about butterflies in general. Everything seems to be undergoing metamorphosis right now. My sons eat like caterpillars, cocoon, and burst forth with brightly colored wings every day.

On this day, the autumn equinox, we pose teetering between the seasons, day and night the same length, before we slide irrisistibly toward winter. My husband and I celebrated the equinox by buying plants at Flowercraft. While we were digging a spot for the raised bed frame, two white butterflies fluttered over and around us and on our grapevines. The photo is of a Cabbage White tasting the Mexican sage in front of our house.

Seven White Butterflies

Seven white butterflies
delicate in a hurry look
how they bang the pages

of their wings as they fly

to the fields of mustard yellow
and orange and plain
gold all eternity

is in the moment this is what

Blake said Whitman said such
wisdom in the agitated
motions of the mind seven

dancers floating

even as worms toward
paradise see how they banter
and riot and rise

to the trees flutter

lob their white bodies into
the invisible wind weightless
lacy willing

to deliver themselves unto

the universe now each settles
down on a yellow thumb on a
brassy stem now

all seven are rapidly sipping

from the golden towers who
would have thought it could be so easy?

--Mary Oliver


Marmee said...


You inspire me, and I so enjoy your reflections on and interest in nature. This poem reminds me of an Emily Dickinson poem about a butterfly. Visit to see a lovely presentation of it.

Daphne said...

Thanks, Marmee. I know a lot of Emily Dickinson's nature poetry, but I didn't know that one. What a lovely poem! The Mary Oliver poem seems almost a response to it. There is something transfixing about the movement of butterflies.