Nature Notebook – The Last Butter-and-Eggs

By: Joel E. Byrne

The flower in question, Butter-and-eggs, is a common, two shades of yellow, roadside one, Linaria vulgaris, in the snapdragon family. I tracked them this fall at a place… Playfairville rapids… in the Mississippi River not far from Lanark. When there were only a few left late in October, I began to feel an acute sense of the loss of all summer flowers, sunny days, warmth, et al. Thus the poem was born.

I came alone to the riverbank
There to take my ease,
To see the sounds and smell the sights
Of rapids, woods and breeze.

And on that slate-gray autumn day
I found a single flower,
So confident its sunny strength
I marveled at its power
To conjure thoughts of cobs of corn
Rolled on sticks of butter,
Of poking yokes with buttered toast,
Of round things warm and good to hold,

But dark thoughts irresistibly
Crept in with the cold:
There stood a living Butter-and-eggs
Amidst its ruined clan,
A host of shriveled faces,
And death was on the land—
Rank on rank the withered stalks,
And soon there would be snow.

I shuddered in the fading light,
And straightened up to go,
But that solitary flower
With yolk and butter suns,
That stalwart last snapdragon
With me was not yet done;
It drew me down and held me,
The dragon lips did part;

A soothing whisper issued forth,
Most cheering to the heart:
‘Do not lament my passing
Or the dying of the throng,
This is the way it happens—
A sleep, and then ere long
The reappearance of everything:
The leaves, the flowers, the song.’

Joel E. Byrne

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