Monday, 27 January 2020


He, the small boy,
two, three maybe,
eyes alive, puzzled, inquisitive,
tugs the wings off a butterfly
eager to know how it works,
maybe understand it a little, he,
innocently snuffing out a brief beautiful life. 

I wonder when he’ll realise
that we,
his teachers, his guides, his role models,
eyes tight shut, blind,
greedy for the needs the wants of now;
rip the wings of everything,

including ourselves.

Anna :o[

Sherry at earthweal asks us to write of how climate change and loss of habitat impacts on the animal kingdom.

During my research into threatened species in the UK, I came across this endangered list on the Countryfile page and it was the image of the small tortoiseshell butterfly that stood out to me.  I cannot honestly recall when I saw this butterfly flutter around my garden but know it will have been a long long time ago.  The only butterfly I see is the common white although that maybe is only three or four in an entire year.

Seeing the image of the butterfly made me think of my children when they were young and now my small grandchildren innocently squishing the life out of insects, unaware (until told) that they are living breathing and beautiful creations.

It also reminded me as when a child (five-six maybe), I and my friends sometimes caught dragonflies, put them in Welfare Foods dried baby milk tins and kicked the tin around until the dragonfly was dead.  Why we did this I don’t know, but the memory is still there some sixty years on and I know this is down to guilt, for even then, something inside of me knew that it was wrong.

Apart from pollinating bees, I think we humans tend to forget the insect kingdom, as insects are not warm-blooded and potentially cuddly, but oh we need them so so much, they are the earth’s levellers.  We really really need them!   Our lives depend on them.

Please read The Insect Apocalypse Is Here, featured in The New York Times Magazine – it a very informative interesting and educational read.  And rather scary too…

Having just looked out of the French doors here, looking at nothing in particular,  made me remember that for the past three years or so, in summer months, when the doors are open, pesky flies rarely enter this room, perhaps only once to thrice a year.  Where have they all gone?

Image:  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Author:  Rob Young from United Kingdom


Mary said...

Yes, I do think we often forget about insects. They indeed are integral to our life as we know it. Where would we be without the pollinators? The bees, of course, but also the butterflies. Sad that now parks, etc. have to make specific butterfly gardens where butterflies are protected. When I was a kid this was not necessary, and butterflies were everywhere. Yes, we humans have an art --- of ripping the wings off everything.....uncaringly. Thought-provoking words.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh, so true, from childhood to adults, we rip the wings off everything. I am glad you spoke for the butterfly, Anna. I think of the vanishing bees and, after them, the vanishing food sources as they go unpollinated. We are beginning to pay a high price for the wanton excesses of the last fifty years. So happy you wrote for Earthweal.

Susan said...

Such a powerful image--and true, stark truth. Some children have realized this. Culpability spares no one. It is so good to read your words again!

Truedessa said...

I can feel the ripped wings of the butterfly. I visited a butterfly sanctuary a couple of years ago and it was the most amazing sight ever. They were so beautiful fluttering here and there. A couple landed on me and I stood so still as to not disturb the moment. We need to keep these precious butterflies safe.

Brendan said...

A fine poem and great contribution to the weekly earthweal challenge, Anna -- the image of a boy ripping off the wings of a tender butterfly is writ large in humanity's tearing into nature for selfish ends -- Also that selfishness belies the indifference one species has toward all the others. When that species is as conscious as we are, though, it is something to grow out of ... I think that our earlier states of mind are present in children, that bland blind unsympathetic gaze toward nature is what exhibits in little children and American Republicans. (Joke there.) Your notes were an excellent addition here and Brooke Jarvis' NYT piece is truly alarming, I read it a few years ago and have had to habituate to the idea of an ever-more-silent world as insects and their food chains vanish. Great work, Anna, thanks again so much for contributing it to earthweal.

Sumana Roy said...

Being destructive is the sole purpose as it were! So from childhood to being adults 'ripping off' everything goes on and in the process there's so much loss. Imagine a world without insects! Humans will of course fade out as a consequence then. SO lovely to read your lines.

brudberg said...

Our curiosity and our eagerness to change everything is a lot like a little boy ripping the wings from a butterfly... and we do it knowing it means maiming the nature and us.

hedgewitch said...

Your poem is the perfect mirror of our cruelty, instinctive perhaps, but so destructive to every living thing around us. When will we outgrow this disregard, this self-centered survivalism that tells us all the world is ours to plunder? Perhaps when there's nothing left. I too mourn the butterflies--I plant gardens for them and the bees, but fewer and fewer come every year. A very speaking poem and accompanying essay.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Well penned, the comparison of a child's innocent wonder to the senseless greed of the adults in the room.