I Was Only Catching Butterflies
I think it began with the little things… like putting the sugar in the fridge
And the teapot in the freezer, scatty things, absent-minded things,
And it’s true, I think, that I’m remembering less about the man
I’m supposed to be, though I can still tell you anything you want to know
About mechanics or the Golden Age of Hollywood or lepidopterology.
The chrysalis is cracking, a metamorphosis is calling
As my fingers probe the air to grasp a reality that shudders at my touch –
As though insect legs had alighted upon skin, and my voice, sometimes,
Sometimes it flitters against the acoustics of the room, no words,
Just clicking sounds, bumping sounds, like a moth hitting the window pane
Where light resides within.
I can’t believe for one second I did those things they told me I did:
See, I was found one eve, having escaped my room, standing knee-deep
In the vicar’s fish pond, a flower-print bedsheet to my shoulders tied tight,
And I was trying to catch with my bare hands a moth in the reflection
Of the pond’s moonlight.
Another time, they found me wandering the village alone in the dark,
With a supermarket trolley full of flowers I’d pulled up in the park,
And they took me back to my room and tucked me into bed,
And the next morning the visitor was there and he was cross with me,
And he told me I had to stay in my room, and I agreed, but I couldn’t remember
Exactly what it was I was supposed to be agreeing to, and then I couldn’t
Remember if the visitor was supposed to be my son or my brother or my father.
I’ve noticed one thing here for sure: they like to feed us all at the same time,
Give us meds, send us to bed in little swarms, put name tags on the inside
Of our clothes: apparently I am called Mr Wise.
They tell me I was arrested yesterday in the village, for hitting the Lord Mayor
With a pair of my underpants tied up as a net to the handle of a broom;
I explained I don’t have a violent bone in my body, that my name is Mr White,
And not Mr Wise, and that I wasn’t hitting anybody,
I was only catching butterflies.
Editor’s note: I Was Only Catching Butterflies is a short study on dementia and the Franz Kafka novella The Metamorphosis. As a health care worker I’ve had many opportunities over the years to work with people who have dementia. I wanted to explore the idea of a “metamorphosis of memory” rather than a physical change to the body.
Are we catching butterflies or grasping thin air? If we lose the memory of who we are, can we become whoever we dare? Had Gregor Samsa survived to a ripe old age (in whatsoever form he perceived himself to be), what would happen then, if he lost his mind (assuming he hadn’t already)?
I Was Only Catching Butterflies written by Ford Waight, 04 August, 2021.
I Was Only Catching Butterflies artwork – crystals photo and clipart digital render by Ford