Merwin’s “One of the Butterflies”

Considering what I had to say about Merwin’s poetry yesterday, it seemed ironic that


Butterfly

ONE OF THE BUTTERFLIES

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn into pain.

is one of my favorite poems in the second half of The Shadow of Sirius. For me, at least, the lines “it can stand facing me unrecognized/ while I am remembering somewhere else” explains why you focus on the present moment rather than getting caught up in the past or worrying about the future.

I’m not a great fan of carpe diem poems and certainly don’t believe in sacrificing the future for immediate gratification, but worrying too much about the future or the past destroys any real chance for joy. Of course, it’s easier to know that then it is to actually live it.

I doubt you can go through life without missing what should have been moments of joy, and like most people I, too, have tried to hang onto a “good thing” too long, only to find it destroyed in the process. But for me, the biggest mistake of all is mourning those things, which simply compounds the misery instead of doing those things that make us happy.

4 thoughts on “Merwin’s “One of the Butterflies”

  1. right on loren. i’m right here right now. can’t do much about the past. i can be available to the future becoming the present. i carry very few regrets. i hold very expectations. it’s all good. steven

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