It began, each year, with the eggs.
A tiny cache of perfectly shaped whiteness
Huddled in secret under the leaves
Of the cabbages and sprouts.
Repeated in its dozens when I turned the leaves gently
To look for more.
They were safe there.
I would say nothing.
In any case my grandfather
Was organic by nature and tradition.
He saw no need to kill.
In time the green and yellow army would emerge,
A hungry host of swiftly moving jaws
Cutting neat holes and patterns into the leaves,
Swelling their bellies
With a soft green sap
That was pure liquid leaf.
They came in all sizes.
I kept a favoured few in jars
And fed them like emperors
Delighting in the rhythmic compulsion
Of their endless feast.
After the feasting came the drama
Of the route march,
Which ended with an epic climb
As they humped their swollen bodies
Up the vertical wooden side of the garage wall.
They were looking for the safety of the darkness
That waited on the underside
Of the corrugated iron roof.
I wondered how they knew.
This was enemy territory.
If they were seen by my grandfather
They would disappear between his fingers
Into a soft green green mush.
In fear for their lives I would lift them higher
To shorten their journey
And stand guard until they were safe.
They were about to perform a miracle
And I wanted them to fly.
On warm days the red admirals, the peacocks,
The tortoiseshells and the painted ladies
Would gather on the sedums
To satiate themselves on the sweet nectar.
Then lie back in the sun
To bask in their beauty,
Spreading their wings wide
In celebration of the sun.
It was then that they would allow me to pay homage.
I could slide my finger under their legs,
Allow them to totter onto its end
And hold them up towards the sky.
A tiny exotic dancer
Poised on my fingertip.
Wings moving slowly
Curled under their chins
Tucked away in readiness.
A precious few moments
Of stillness and serenity.
Then without warning
They would twinkle up into the air,
A haphazard trail of moving colour
Rising and falling
Leaping and pirouetting in the air,
Throwing themselves at the sun
Over and over again,
In an unrehearsed, childlike shout of joy.
Like my days the butterflies are fewer now
But the world still has its beauty
And we still have hearts to fly.