Who Breaks a Butterfly Upon a Wheel

*Butterfly - Slow Motion

by Aleksey Vasiliev*

Who Breaks a Butterfly Upon a Wheel

borrowed from Alexander Pope’s Espisle to Dr. Arbuthnot

Gentle people cry soft tears
try to hide their pain and fears,
we live upon this place called Earth
decreed our home from our birth.
In the midst of sorrow and pain
the barristers of hate do reign.
Take all the hope and shatter dreams
fill their mouths with chocolate creams,
selfish in their gluttonous ways
it’s always the gentle folk who pay
to keep the monsters from their door,
the ones who prey upon the poor.

Hearts of gold are hard to find
when those who lead are deaf and blind,
care not upon who’s back they trod
just cane them with their holy rod.
Take all they have, tax them to death
even tax their dying breath.
I ask who will rise to the task
remove the angry devil mask
and rescue them from the evil hand
try to save the people and the land?
There’s no answer I can see
to insure hope for you and me,
so this line from Pope I steal,
who breaks the butterfly upon a wheel?

My husband and I were watching the movie Shattered written by William Morrisey. The film was originally titled “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?”” The line is usually interpreted as questioning why someone would put massive effort into achieving something minor or unimportant, or who would punish a minor offender with a disproportional punishment and when the message was read it gnawed at my brain until I had to write a poem around those intriguing words. - zbird

Beyond zbird’s beatiful writing, I feel a special resonance with this this poem because it was mentioned in an article in The Guardian I read about Aaron Swartz and the incredible contributions he made to the World Wide Web as we know it today, and to freedom of information, and access.

Aaron Swartz died by his own hand in 2013. The responsibility for his death was not his own. The Guardian talks about it as being, pour décourager les autres- in order to encourage the others —(said ironically of an action such as an execution) carried out as a warning to others.

Aaron Swartz wrote: “This, I suppose, is the actual problem, I feel my existence is an imposition on the planet.” long before his suicide. I recently read The Sense of an Ending, a novel by Julian Barnes.

The Sense of an Ending is a memoir on death, again, but a fictional one this time.

In the book, Tony Webster is looking back on his life, or one particular arc of it, to do with a gifted school friend, a girl, and an everyday tragedy. Tony is an interesting study: retired, particular, clearly somewhat lonely:

“I had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded – and how pitiful that was.”

His only regular human contact is his ex-wife Margaret, with whom he continues to get on well: indeed, she seems to be his only friend. She, with apparent disinterest, offers him advice on what to do when his teenage experience with ex-girlfriend Veronica starts to trouble him again. Why worry now about something that happened forty years ago? Because it involves death, and Tony is not getting any younger.

And because the past is never dead; it is not even past.

Reading about Aaron Swartz and his work inspire me. I see parallels between how he experienced college at Stanford, and what I have seen a lot of here these last few months. His life was far too short, and his accomplishments innumerable for such a short life. Tell me then, who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? And why/why not?