News Poetry: Upon Learning that Butterflies Existed Sixty Million Years Before Flowers

We must now amend our theories of desire,
our understanding of what transforms
flesh so that it may feed on the nectar
hidden deep within the recesses of beauty.

We have had it all wrong, assuming that form
follows folly, that the long hollow tongue, the six
spindly legs, the weightless grace of wings,
evolved to plunder the extravagance of flower.

Now we know that it is not hunger,
but the desire for hunger that is paramount,
that what animates flesh is not the need
to consume, but the need to be consumed.

We know that flowers did not create butterflies,
but the monarch that created the milkweed;
the lion, the lamb; the lost and lonely,
the grieved and groveling, their gods.


Poetry Editor’s Note: On January 10, 2018 National Public Radio reported that due to a recent discovery of butterfly and moth fossils, scientists have proven that the proboscis that draws nectar from flowers preceded the existence of flowers by millions of years. This leaves open the question: whatever was the proboscis for?

Photo credit: Randen Pederson, Creative Commons, Flickr 

Jose A. Alcantara is a former construction worker, baker, commercial fisherman, math teacher, and studio photographer. He currently works in a bookstore in Aspen, Colorado. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Poetry Daily, The Southern Review, Spillway, Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, and 99 Poems for the 99%.


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