BOONE, N.C. — A species of butterfly found only at the Fort Bragg military installation in Fayetteville inspired former Poet Laureate of North Carolina (2012–14) Joseph Bathanti to craft the poem “Saint Francis’s Satyr Butterfly.”
A creative writing professor in Appalachian State University’s Department of English, Bathanti is also a dedicated advocate for veterans — facilitating numerous workshops and writing projects for military veterans and their families managing the aftereffects of combat and trauma related to military service.
He allows the reprinting of his poem at Memorial Day.
Bathanti has authored 17 books, served as the 2016 Charles George VA Medical Center Writer-in-Residence in Asheville and received the 2016 North Carolina Award for Literature. At Appalachian, he serves as the McFarlane Family Distinguished Professor in Interdisciplinary Education and writer-in-residence in Watauga Residential College.
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.
This poem originally appeared in War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, published by the Department of English and Fine Arts at the United States Air Force Academy.
- Student Veteran Services
- High Country Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America
- Watauga Veterans Memorial unveiled in Boone
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About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The 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 to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.