The Big Butterfly Count of 2038

The Big Butterfly Count runs from 17 July to 9 August and you can find details here.

To get you in the mood, and perhaps suggest how important it is to look after our beautiful fluttering friends before they are gone for ever, how many hidden names of butterflies can you find in the poem below…?

Welcome all who were called to this barren small heath,
Where the speckled woods rise from the plastic beneath,
And the dead meadow browns under orange-tip sun,
Glaring down clouded yellow on all that we’ve done.

We are gathered today, as we gather each year,
To record and survey all our planet holds dear,
Tell your last swallowtail, note the time and the date,
The Big Butterfly Count of Two Zero Three Eight.

In your childhood days, all you needed to do,
Was to laze in your garden while they came to you,
And the shadows grew bright with their scrap-paper hues,
Green-veined whites, purple hairstreaks, small coppers, large blues.

Like kaleidoscope blossoms blown down from the trees,
A collection of postage stamps thrown on the breeze,
Let us wait as the gatekeeper closes the gate,
The Big Butterfly Count of Two Zero Three Eight.

Where they once flew in wildflower meadowsweet parks,
They now shrivel and die like a bonfire’s sparks,
Chanting brimstone and treacle, on large heath or small,
With no witchcraft to roll back this butterfly ball.

We have broken their butterfly wings on a wheel
Which stops turning for children whose ringlets we steal,
And the last chalk hill blue is wiped clean off the slate,
The Big Butterfly Count of Two Zero Three Eight.

When a butterfly won’t flap its wings in Brazil,
Will the wind cease to blow while the oceans grow still?
Will we go to the wall with such hothouse neglect,
Gazing clear through the glaze of our greenhouse effect?

Will our butterfly minds flutter on to forget
The last butterfly stitch in this butterfly net?
Now the old purple emperor lies here in state,
The Big Butterfly Count of Two Zero Three Eight.

Is there anyone here who remembers last year,
When we waited all day for just two to appear?
But how lucky we were! Now our race is near run,
As we set out to count and record the last one.

Because all of our one hundred eyes looked away
While the last painted ladies made peacock display,
And the northern brown argus predicted their fate,
The Big Butterfly Count of Two Zero Three Eight.

There it is! The large white! What a sight! What a tale!
A great white that’s as rare as Old Ahab’s white whale,
Take a blank scrap of paper, a snowflake, a ghost,
As the last grizzled skipper abandons his post.

We are stood on the bridge looking down on the drop,
This is no type of comma, but final full stop.
Sail a fleet of red admirals before it’s too late,
The Big Butterfly Count of Two Zero Three Eight.

© Text copyright Jason Hook 2019

 

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