He did not seem to hear
when the others teased him
about his socks or his pants
he was just
down the alley
and didn't seem to see
the hollyhocks sway under
the bees or the neighborhood apples
coming ripe, but only
for which he quested with
his net and
he fixed them wriggling
but in a solitude that seemed
to transfix them, these
into permanence and the essence
of the beauty they could represent
only temporarily in life so brief.
They came to be their own symbols
under his hand, in holy sacrament.
One day, when autumn had come
and the butterflies no longer
blessed the streets
and alleys with their lightness and their grace,
they boy was walking to school when he noticed
the largest, most beautiful butterfly
he had ever seen.
It had, of course, not survived the season,
but had left its perfect form
in the auto repair shop
trapped between a pane of grimy glass
and a can of cleaning solvent.
The boy was too timid to approach
the tall forbidding men inside
to ask if he might take away
the beautiful thing in their dim territory,
of which they were so obviously unaware.
Each day he passed it
once on the way to school
and again on the way home.
But each day failed to bring
he needed to match his desire
to its acquisition.
The boy asked his parents to approach
the mechanics, but they refused.
They said that if he wanted the prize,
he must be willing to take the risk.
And one chilly morning, the boy decided
he would do it. He gazed at the butterfly
for a long moment, then rounded the corner.
Two men stood outside
on the grease-stained concrete,
talking and laughing in their dirty, dark overalls.
One turned his head to spit
a great gob of black tobacco
and saw this boy standing there
just looking up at him.
What the hell did he want?
Their eyes met for the briefest second,
and the boy was sent whirling
down the street like a dry leaf
in the cold, stiff breeze of autumn --
in that wind that blows the leaves
to dust down the chill corridors of days
that turn to weeks that turn to months
and years, that changes everything
into something else,