Yesterday was the legal public holiday of Veterans Day, and most federal employees will have today off to honor America’s military veterans, an “unbroken chain of men and women who have served our country with honor and distinction.”
When Joseph Bathanti was named North Carolina’s Poet Laureate in August of this year, he announced plans to work with veterans to share their stories of military service—including combat zones—through poetry. To celebrate Veterans Day, Bathanti has written a poem for veterans, families of veterans, and for all of us who honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice.
Saint Francis’s Satyr Butterfly
All creatures have the same source as we have.
—Saint Francis of Assisi
A reclusive small brown butterfly,
white and yellow stigmatic suns
deployed along its wing ridges,
Saint Francis’s Satyr —christened
after the 12th century Italian soldier
and POW turned mystic—
secretes itself, miraculously,
in 10 by 10 kilometers
of the 251 square mile brash
of Fort Bragg—exact coordinates classified—
beyond which—we know this much—
it has gone undetected. Shy, endangered,
preferring anonymity, it hides
in high artillery impact domains—
life often chooses death—
the fires triggered by bombardment.
It wears Marsh camouflage,
resembles in its favored habitat—
blasted sedge and beaver ruins—
a tiny standard issue
Advanced Combat Helmet.
Parsed from the chrysalis,
rent too soon from its dream of living,
the satyr blazes in desperate glory
but three or four days,
in its imaginal stage,
then tenders its life in writ sacrifice.
Its gorgeous numbers dwindle.
The caterpillar has never been seen.
We accept, on faith, metamorphosis.
Note: Saint Francis’s Satyr, a rare, endangered butterfly, exists exclusively in a 10×10 kilometer, high artillery impact zone within the confines of Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina.