How to treat a butterfly (for Tina):
by john p. schulz
- On Building Stepping Stones
- Concrete and Abstract
Suddenly and unexpectedly captivated
The two young girls stopped their play
Noticing the wrinkled ancient gardener
As he added interest to the garden path.
They stood in their shorts and sandals
Their long hair hanging down
And watched as the old man pressed a flower
Into a freshly poured cement stepping stone.
“Will the flower stay in the cement?”
“No” replied the gardener.
“I will take the flower out
when the cement dries.”
“And what will be there, then?”
The other girl asked
The gardener thought about it
“The essence of the flower will remain.”
The girls thought about it
“Can you put a butterfly in it?”
“Yes” the gardener replied
“Can you find a butterfly?”
The two girls looked at each other and disappeared
Returning as the gardener was mixing fresh cement.
His hands old and wrinkled but strong
One girl’s hands soft and smooth
Cupped under her chin
Holding a treasure.
The gardener, putting his hand to his back
Straightened up, his eyes smiling
“And what might you have in your hands?”
“Why it’s a butterfly” she laughed
“I caught it. It’s beautiful”
He gently held out his hand
“And you want its essence in the garden?”
She looked down at her hands. “I think so” she said.
And after a pause, she asked:
“Will it die?”
“Of course” the old man said
“But I don’t want it to die”
She clasped her hands a bit tighter.
The old man cocked his head to the side
“It will only live for a day, anyway”
She looked down at her hands
“And how long will its essence be in the cement?”
He turned and looked all around the garden
“It should be there for years” he replied
She followed his gaze around the beautiful garden
“He will be here for years?”
“He will die tomorrow anyhow?”
The girls looked at each other
They looked at the cupped hands
They looked up at the cloudy sky
And the smooth young hands opened up
And the girls watched
As the beautiful butterfly found a wind current
And sailed away.
“He only gets one day.” She said