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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Dreams of the Blue Morpho


File:Tropical butterfly.jpg

1 Instars

The larval bower swells with passing instars

A swarming of wings in the air of the swimming dream
A mothwing fur grows over the dreamer
Let us call him Mister Dim the Image Collecting Man
Who dreams the dream of the Blue Morpho
And feels his soul being changed again
When soundlessly the pupa on flimsy wings
Emerges from the tree line just before dark

2 What the Blue Morpho Does in Mister Dim's Dream

Changes shape

Puts an end to sleep
by quick shimmerings
of its wings
on his eyelids

Moves toward a silent estuary
where a pure world of alpha states
forms into a delta
an island on stilts in the night
in the dry tropic rains

And then in the end
the Blue Morpho Menelaus
and the Blue Morpho Peleides


3 Now It Starts

Around dinner time
the pupa hatches
emerging from the trees
on flimsy wings
just before dark
(twilight comes early)

And this is the beginning

4 In Time

Spring sunshine
irradiates the stunted jack pine
with kingfisher light. Time sleeps

for the Blue Morpho. The wink
of wings as she probes
the orange-throated corollas

of shaded woodland flowers
was programmed eons ago

but as she spirals up, thinking
to break away on the airflow --
here comes
the guy with the net

File:Blue morpho butterfly.jpg

Morpho peleides: photo by Bilboq, 2006
Pupa in leaf: photo by Jim Conrad, 2008
Morpho menelaus: photo by Gregory Phillips, 2003


Annie said...

TC said...

Here's Annie's link, click-on-able:

Vladimir Nabokov Hunts Butterflies

And then there are:

Nabokov's butterfly drawings for Vera

And here are some of the living beauties at work and play:

Brookside Morpho (9 seconds)

Eleven seconds of a Blue Morpho, alive

Twelve seconds in the brief life of a brilliant Blue Morpho

Blue Morpho opens its wings (21 seconds)

Some Blue Morphos (Menelaus & Peleides) and Other Butterflies, Key West (Video'd but not "Collected")

(For the sadistic at heart, there are also a number of videos available on hunting and collecting these brilliant creatures, I don't have the heart to put them up)

Mariana Soffer said...

Great poem, I love it I love morphology.

Morphs eventually morph. They can morph by adding to it a pine tree or they can morph by substracting an old window from a cave.
Watching morph the morphology, you can appreciate the re shapping of the forms, the art and math of it.

(In maths exists a subdiscipline that takes care of adding, substracting, and using other operators on real 3d objects, it is very interesting, check it out)

TC said...


You have a multidimensional mind, I would love sometime to go for a stroll in it.

You're right, in a way this is a poem about morphology. The instars and pupae...

And the Morphos continually morph in light. They are colored in metallic, shimmering shades of blue and green. These colors are not a result of pigmentation but of iridescence. The microscopic scales covering the wings reflect incident light repeatedly at successive layers, leading to interference effects that depend on both wavelength and angle of incidence/observance. (It's all just natural math, as you say.) Therefore the colors produced vary with viewing angle. And the Morphos could be said to be morphing eternally according to the viewing position of the beholder. (Like many other things I suppose, just more dramatically.)

And of course they can seem to morph in a nanosecond merely by opening or closing their wings.The iridescent lamellae are only present on the dorsal side of the wings, leaving the ventral side brown. (The ventral side is decorated with ocelli or eyespots.) The problem with those great wings is that they make the Morphos slow and wobbly in flight. Which in turn often causes them to morph (mutatis mutandis) into the digestive contents of predators.

Dale said...

There's always a "guy with the net" to spoil the fun. Thanks for this poem, a lovely dream morphology....

TC said...

Our friend Elmo St. Rose follows up Annie's Nabokov-as-great-white-butterfly-hunter link with this useful link to

Nabokov's Butterflies: an Introduction

I was interested to learn from this piece that in March of 1951, in the first year that Nabokov taught his Masterpieces of European Fiction course at Cornell, he included three stories involving transformation: Gogol's "The Overcoat" (with his habitual hyperprecision he preferred to translate the title as "The Carrick"), Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and Kafka's "The Metamorphosis." Thus he introduced the subject of transformation for his students. Whether he brought in any of his specimens...

The subject is resonant with Mariana's earlier comment about morphing.

Without doing my Doctor Science on Life Support imitation... well, Mariana's comment deserves at least a short account of the Blue Morpho's transformational growth stages.

These brilliant liittle blinders live in tropical regions of the Americas. Most of their 115 day life is spent hanging about on the forest floor sucking the juice of rotten flowers. When not lounging or eating they spend their time reproducing, This is the sole activity capable of getting them into the air. They do a good deal of it.

The first phase of the life of one of these creatures is a blue butterfly egg. The egg's outer shell is a cap that protects the larvae inside. The shell has an inner wax lining that retains moisture. Eggs deposited on the surfaces of host leaves are connected by the installation of a glue-like chemical secreted by the female.

In the next growth stage the larval form, or caterpillar, hatches out, and eats its egg case. It has a head, thorax and abdomen. A real set of legs is accompanied by a series of five false legs. They have six eyes, but as yet remain all but blind. They breathe through holes on the sides of their bodies. They are big eaters. 115 days is not a lot of time in which to fulfill your biological destiny. Growing bigger, they sprout tiny wing disks on their chest segments. Meanwhile skin falls away in stages.

During these stage of skin-shedding, the creature is known as an instar.

After the final instar, a pupa appears, spiky, at the end of the abdomen of the larva. This prickly part is known as the cremaster.

A baby blue morpho butterfly hangs from the cremaster until it can fly well. Some pupae are capable of moving parts of their abdomen to produce sounds as a defense against predators. During the transformation, a complete re-cell-production results in the formation of a blue butterfly.

An adult blue morpho butterfly has two things to watch out for. One would be birds, especially flycatchers and jacamars. The other would be humans with big billowy nets. Sometimes these are nice smiling friendly tourists. More often they are specimen collectors who harvest the Blue Morphos to be be sold as ornamental jewelry or framed as -- to use the language of one advertisement --"Not just Pictures of Butterflies but Real Butterflies!"

The deforestation of their tropical habitat poses a real threat to the Blue Morpho. The guy with a net poses an even greater one. As Dale says (speaking of resonance), "There's always a 'guy with the net' to spoil the fun." Like much of the world's beauty, there's no telling how long the blue morphos will survive. About their only hope would be to have the humans somehow magically die out. But as I've said, they keep busy with eating and reproducing, leaving little time to waste on a foolishness like hope.

TC said...

Of course Wordsworth never saw a Blue Morpho, still I couldn't resist--

I've watched you now a full half-hour;
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! Indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless! - Not frozen seas
More motionless! And then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!

(To a Butterfly)

Annie said...

For me, once I regained approximate sobriety from being a little inebriated on the secondhand alpha waves, your poem captures the elusive raison de l'écriture, that chase for transcendent creative transformation, for finding connection, even for a moment, with one iridescent fractal of the self, maybe with another being. The guy with the net might be the "real world" pressing in, might be some stinkin' badges, might just be us, as Pogo sort of put it...At the risk of muddying the waters with associations with an entirely different set of blue images, only in dreams...

TC said...

Thank you Annie for coming to the thought that was in my mind all through the constructing of these two posts.

Yes, the guy might just be "us". But we'd like to think our passing "captures" whether with pictures or words are framings of praise not arrows aimed at the heart or pins stuck through the eyeballs. But I suppose we'll simply never be able to leave the natural world alone, and how much good that does the natural world... we'll never know.