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Salmon Poetry

The Butterfly Tattoo Effect

Patricia Monaghan

Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?
— Edward Lorenz

Charlene was fifty when she got it:
one small butterfly, perched on
her right shoulder, bright blue
with stipples of pink.  Everything
in her life seemed safe by then:
husband, children, house and dog.
She wanted to be a little dangerous.

When she left the Jade Dragon
she called her oldest friend, Maggie,
in Florida, with the news.  A tattooed
gal at fifty, she bragged.  I ain’t down yet.

Maggie laughed that throaty laugh of hers.
An hour later on her way to work,
she stopped on a whim and bought
a gallon of red paint for her door.
That night, she didn’t drive straight
home but stopped for a drink at an old
haunt from her more dangerous years.
No one she knew was there, so she talked
awhile to Flo, the bartender, told her about
feng shui and red doors, and oh yes, she
mentioned the tattoo just before she left. 

It rested in Flo’s mind all night as she
uncapped the beers and mixed the drinks.
She was warmer than usual, sassy and loud.
Things got wild.  There was dancing.
A new woman stopped in and picked up
one of the regulars.  Washing up past midnight,
Flo thought of her old friend Paula, who
lived in California.  It was still early there.

Flo picked up the phone, right then,
and called.  Somehow the subject of Charlene’s
tattoo came up.  Paula had been thinking
of getting one too.  Why not?  Life marks us all,
why can’t we chose our scars just once?
They talked till late.  The next day Paula
walked into a dealership and bought
the reddest car she saw.  By nightfall she was
driving fast, towards the south.  And the next morning

the world awoke to news of seismic convulsions
on every continent brought on by
the simultaneous shifting into high gear
of millions of women in sleek red cars.

Copyright Patricia Monaghan 2002

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