White Butterfly

Where do i go
what can i say
when you say what you say

what makes you inhuman
is your evil comfort
that which i sensed

the first time ever i saw your voice
you will puke when you read this
be my guest

or it will have no effect
which is even worse
how can you?
say the things you say

i guess that is why
you are where you are
and i am where i am

i am surprized at how strong i am
that all i do now
is clear my mind

it is not stunned
nor bewildered
it all makes perfect sense

and my eyes pond
with tears like the gentle
calming rain

like a balm
they soothe me
like a mother’s touch

when still a child
and ill with fever
hush little baby
baby don’t you cry

i have now seen a world
that i have been avoiding
that I’ve entered in pretense

and i know why
i was right not to step out
but only make my feet wet
with boiling hot water

just enough to get burned
but my skin is thick and calloused
from working in the fields
and they will still walk

picking cotton
shackled
roughened
swinging
from trees

cutting cane
under the fiery sun
with only a song
to shelter me

with one foot chopped off
for wanting
to walk free
to some other meadow
where rats don’t roam free

i will have to deal with
dealing with the past
for opening up
as it was easier to do

it is always easier
to forget
not think
not listen to your heart

we are divided
by things far greater
than fences and walls
or borders or flags

we are divided by consciousness
history
responsibility
and irresponsibility

what we do and what we see
live on in our children
and their children’s children

i am responsible for those who are here
and for those who are yet to come
i am not an island
but a living breathing tree

tall
beautiful
dark
and strong

i carry the burden
of the hurts of the past
by those who have walked
before me

if i did not and if i forgot
i will never reach to the heavens
but stop
stand still
fall down
and die

so will my people
and their children
and their children’s children

i will live my life the best i can
and it is not easy
and not as simple

as waking up
getting on a bus
and letting the day
roll over my back

a white butterfly
flutters in my garden
i don’t know what it is doing there

i am sure
it does not know either

may be it likes
the flowers may be
it doesn’t matter
who tended them

it does not matter
what nurtured them
love, pain, solace or evil
it knows no difference

all it seeks is the honey
no matter who put it there
no matter where it came from
or what hands watered them

dug the ground
planted them
weeded and pruned

it does not matter
to the white butterfly
what those hands
have done
or what they have not done

it does not know
it does not care
it does not need to know
all it needs – is honey

the white butterfly
the white butterfly
the white butterfly

blazing whiter
in the bright
summer light
hurting my eyes

don’t come here
go away
this garden is not for you

but it still comes back
and i do not know what to do
it does not understand

and i cannot even begin
to think of
grabbing it in my palm
squeezing it lame

dropping it on the ground
and squishing it
with the calloused heel
of my only black foot

that would be a sin.

so i walk on
in the blazing sun
barefoot
blackened
shining and gleaming
with sweat

offending

singing a song

hush little baby
little baby
don’t you cry
there there
a pretty butterfly.

by Renuka Mendis – from July 1, 2000

With acknowledgements for Summertime to :
George Gershwin
DuBose Heyward

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