For Memorial Day, North Carolina Poet Laureate Emeritus Joseph Bathanti shared one of his poems originally published in War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, which is published by the Department of English and Fine Arts at the United States Air Force Academy.
Bathanti is professor of creative writing in Appalachian State University’s Department of English. He is also a dedicated advocate for veterans. He serves on the Armed Services Arts Partnership Writing Advisory Committee and directs the Appalachian Veterans Arts and Humanities Collective.
On Bathanti’s appointment as the Charles George VA Medical Center Writer-in-Residence at the Veterans Health Administration in Asheville in 2016, The Charlotte Observer columnist Dannye Romine Powell wrote, “I can’t imagine a gentler, kinder, more insightful human being to help birth the traumatic memories of war than our own Joseph Bathanti.”
Bathanti was recently named Appalachian’s inaugural McFarlane Family Distinguished Professor in Interdisciplinary Education and will teach full time in Watauga Residential College.
His poem, “Saint Francis’s Satyr Butterfly,” is inspired by a species of butterfly found only at the Fort Bragg military installation in Fayetteville.
Saint Francis’s Satyr Butterfly
By Joseph Bathanti
“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.
- Student Veteran Services
- High Country Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America
- Watauga Veterans Memorial construction starts
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.