Sunday, February 13, 2011

El Efecto Mariposa

Last Thursday I had the privilege (again) of reading original poetry as part of a collaboration between SPARK and the Target Gallery at Torpedo Factory Art Center. The current exhibit is called "Mixing Bowl: Immigration and Diversity in America." If you know me, you know that I was alllll about that exhibit. There were a few pieces that left me kind of cold, but there were several others that moved me, and three that brought tears to my eyes. I decided to write a response to a piece called "Parallel Migrations 7" by a woman named Ann Dushanko Dobek. You can get a sense of the piece here, although the actual piece at the Target Gallery was much smaller.

I was so moved by this piece... I couldn't take my eyes off of it. The fragility and migratory nature of butterflies compared with the fragility and migratory nature of illegal migrants from Mexico and Central America hit me square in the chest... like I honestly couldn't breathe for a bit when I first saw the piece. In thinking about it, I thought of chaos theory and the idea of the Butterfly Effect, and my musings on the clash of ideas there lead to the creation of this poem.

El Efecto Mariposa
(The Butterfly Effect)

Part of chaos theory proposes
that the flutter of a butterfly's wings in London
could cause a torrential rainstorm in Buenos Aires.
But let's not start there.

Let's start with the existence of chaos theory,
with the mathematical, philosophical,
scientific proposition that the universe
might actually be totally random.
Let's start with men in well-constructed offices
wearing clean and well-made clothes
proposing that perhaps everything around them
is actually an accident of chance.

And then let me propose another theory:
that it is a particular affectation of the privileged
to believe in this randomness of events.

For the very poor, causality is clear and brutal:
My father left us.
There were no jobs in the village, so we moved to the city.
There were jobs in the city, but also drugs and gangs.
My brother was killed.
The U.S. company closed the factory.
We had no money.
My mother became sick.
I got pregnant.

To them, the causal pathways of events
are as clearly traced as dried riverbeds
that form paths leading to the barrier wall...
the wall that keeps them out, like beggars, like thieves,
like wild animals.

There are no immigration debates
for those on one side of the wall
for whom there is only this trail of events
leading to the inevitable conclusion
that it is better to die trying
than simply to die.

For birds and for butterflies,
such migratory pathways are solely about survival,
finding better nesting and grazing,
a place to raise one's young.
Butterflies and birds fly over the wall, unobserved,
while a young woman, 3 months pregnant,
prepares to leave at nightfall.

For her, there is no random flutter
of butterfly wings causing storms far away.
There is only a string of events,
like cracked stepping stones, that she follows
to the back of a van at midnight,
to a stranger who promises to drive her to the desert
so she can fly northward
on the migratory pathway to survival.

1 comment:

Mike Croghan said...


Moving and powerful, Amy.