I. FIRST INSTAR
Light is the memory of my oldest brother
who begged our father to stop the car
when a butterfly hit the windshield. Light in love is the brother,
then a child of less than thirty six pounds
and the ceremony he called at the side of the road
Light is a place, like a state, I conjured as a child
when the darkness
got too heavy
so I focused my attention on nothing but black.
Light is where I will go when my dance is through
II. SECOND INSTAR
Heavy was fear felt in my grandfather’s erotic touch;
shame imprinted on a child weighing less than thirty six pounds
tucked safe under covers at dawn. Touch was an intoxicating
sip of torment tempered by vodka
Fierce was the NO screamed 18 years later
Heavy were blows of fists and feet to big soft pillows
Light was stillness that followed
stillness like the moment just before blackbird sings
it is morning
Light is what eventually consumed shame
III. THIRD INSTAR
Heavy is boxes of files
files of folders, folders
filled with paper filled with notes
dating back to algebra, precalculus, there was physics
chemistry, environmental toxicology, don't forget anatomy
and physiology, all muscles and bones and their relationships
memorized for the tests so I could receive
the A+ in the course. Heavier is
it was about the grade to label me someone worthy of approval
Heavy are metals in the air, soil and water
Heavy metals spoiling blood, weakening bone, irritating nerves
distorting thought with fear, fear that releases heavy metals
to the sky. Heavier is the possibility of these dangers ubiquitous
concentrated and stable.
Heavy is the toxicology book, 1236 pages long with highlights
in the first two chapters, the two chapters I read
when I returned to school before closing the book on the debate.
The Basic Science of Poisons is almost as thick
as Webster’s International Encyclopedia
the same small font but with two columns instead of three
tables and figures instead of photographs. Heavier is the burden
of this information memorized by so few, misunderstood by most,
disputed by those whose opinions determine the fate of butterflies
Heavy is the debt accumulated to acquire
something more than memorized numbers and names, an education
that might tell me how to make sense of all this information
Heavier are the obstacles for actualizing this broad knowledge
in a world that glorifies the analysis of numbers and names
Analysis that annihilates weeds and builds bombs
in the absence of all sense. Light is
all sense intact
IV. FOURTH INSTAR
Heavy are the bodies of six Palestinian children found partly decomposed in a bathroom.
Heavy is the blame between Israeli and Palestinian groups,
Blame that kills children.
Blame now focused on small questions of war, who violated the truce first?
Slight justification for six children dead. Heavier is no pause to grieve children
nameless almost faceless before they were retrieved
Heavy is the decline of monarch butterflies. Where a few summers ago
thousands upon thousands greeted milkweed, this season
there are but literally a few. Heavy is fear of no food
becomes a world without food. Heavy becomes the memory of children
meeting thousands of monarchs with wonder.
Heavier are impoverished children; children who know grief
without a glimpse of splendor
Heavy are thousands of children at the Mexico United States border;
children without parents. Heavy are the rules that create borders,
barriers that hold children where God has placed a bridge over the gulf.
Heavier is the immediate question, do these children have water?
Heavier still is the sadness attached to all these heavy things
Heavy like a bucket full of water, heavy as this grown body full of love
Sixty percent pure water that sitting unmoved
is heaviest when butterfly weed is under attack and children suffer thirst
V. FIFTH INSTAR
So heavy is a friend who says she cannot be a friend to me anymore;
A voice that says I have abandoned my child in the arms of his father.
Heavy is this heart racing in my chest, defending whom?
Me, God, love, the world?
Leaving who, my child? For whom? Me, God, love, his world.
Heavier is the dissolution of marriage and the debt remaining,
a force that propelled me to let go of my child when he is just thirty six pounds
With my plea then, what does a poor mother do
when the child refugees are thirsty
and she holds a bucket full of pure water?
What does a mother do but secure her child and turn then to refugees
who walk on two legs and four, who flutter great distances to hollow fields
where sustenance once grew. What does a mother do
but quench the thirst that will become her child’s world
unless this thirst is extinguished at the edge of no God’s land?
Heaviest of all is the boulder I held
at the river’s bank. Light is something that broke through
when I surrendered to the weight
and let go. Light is my proof.
That rock knows me and everything
I have loved of this world
Light is just the thing that anchors me to that given love; love that bends me through
all the hellos and goodbyes. Love that whispers
light is the first and final bow
Light is the feel of the baby blue wash cloth with a rose
woven in deep blue trim; a fresh cloth handy to wipe the sweat
from my chest when there is no time to bathe
Amidst so many heavy things yet to be moved.
Light in love is the grandmother, matriarch of transition
my new housemate, who placed the blue cloth
on the clean white shelf
A light wash cloth wrung with cold water is the thought that, yes
there is a home for everyone in this world, even mothers
praying for missing butterflies and children thirsty at the limits of Grace
A cool wash cloth is carry your bucket where you must
Water at the tap is when your bucket gets too heavy, stand upright
carry this water as a gift atop your head
A body full of love bathed in light is go cheerfully, remember
this stack of bones is designed to carry water
8.4.14; revised 7.4.15
First published 8.5.14 in More than anything death puts life into perspective
Note: The following on gratitude for the wound supplements commentary offered along with the original publication of Dance of the Butterfly 8.5.14.
Gratitude is the greatest prayer. This is widely known and practiced, beginning each day for some, and for many others marking the start of each meal, meditation practice, presentation, and so on. Here, I write about being grateful for the wounds and the worst insults to the mind that may come during childhood, my own wound storied in chapter II. SECOND INSTAR.
I want to begin by clarifying that nothing I write about the gifts bestowed by wounds is meant to suggest that the wounding of children is ok and should be perpetuated or is necessary for the shaping of compassionate human beings. In every child wounded, there is great potential for self-destruction and self-regeneration. Which the outcome will be is determined by many factors. Early childhood trauma is essentially a life-at-risk game of roulette. Perpetration of the child must end. That glad time when no child is violated draws nearer for every child who, in his own determination to love and be loved, heals his inheritance.
Wounds of early childhood can be understood as representative of a soul’s inheritance or responsibility. Depending on a person’s aspirations and talents, these early wounds offer profound potential for self and community healing. Arriving to gratitude for the wound is one of the most challenging and rewarding processes of healing the mind. The first step in this process is the freedom to voice the injustice of the wound and say no to the wound with others as witness to the harm and without intent to shame or punish the perpetrator.
This latter requires that the victim’s objection be voiced as objection to the violation itself, rather than objection to the perpetrator. For this, the victim must understand that his perpetrator inflicted harm from his own woundedness. The victim must have already accomplished a sincere degree of compassion for the perpetrator in order for his voiced objection to have a purifying quality.
In my experience, the truly healing expression of objection to harm is accomplished within the context of breathwork or some other facilitated practice that encourages actual vocalization of the wound. This is because a child’s silence complicates and compounds her trauma.
Dance of the Butterfly also stories the path of my unwillingness to stand quietly in enjoyment of comforts granted me by way of genocide and ecocide. I think of genocide and ecocide as the collective expression of individual woundedness. Silence in response to these violations would signify my collusion in the most grotesque harms. At the close of 2012, I decided that I will use my privileged existence only to voice recognition of the violations that are perpetuated to ensure my comforts while identifying the roots of these violations and measures necessary for resolving the harms. Due to financial circumstances, my moral stand continues to separate me from my son. This is painful for both of us.
On the national and international scene, now is the time to heal past and fresh wounds in the interest of preventing the perpetuation of obscene violations. Just as with the individual, voicing objection to harms without intent to punish perpetrators is an essential process in arriving to gratitude for common violations; violations that every identifiable group has endured in the long course of colonization, religious persecution, and discrimination.
Socially sanctioned conferences organized to air objection to past and ongoing harms must be concurrent with conferences being organized to resolve conflicts and those organized to determine effective responses to global ecological catastrophe. Without formal conferences that give voice to the wounds, people are forced to gather in the streets. The absence of respect offered in the way of formal conference for those who object to harms inflicted upon themselves and others is itself an atrocious violation of human dignity symbolizing a disgraceful society. The greatest and most urgent task is to move individuals, groups, and the global citizenship from disgrace to grace; from disregard to respect; from resentment to gratitude.