By Lauren Lee
“Butterfly 蝴蝶” is an ode to my great-grandmother, who passed away a few years ago. On occasion, the butterfly of her spirit still flies by.
Bye-bye butterfly It's time to fly away You’ve spent some time on mother earth But I wonder, how is it up in heaven? Just know that I think of you every single day You fill my mind with happiness Hazy memories of my early years Are held within a frame of you Thoughts ingrained in my mind Your words coming to me rapidly Even when I couldn't understand you Every time you spoke in Taishanese Your hair was an elegant gray Your perm was perfectly styled But I never saw you leave the house How did you keep it curled? Remember when you made me Chicken noodle soup? Ladling it with those shaky hands I never did say thank you Watching the world pass by You sat outside Yet in all of those years I never saw you in your own habitat In your own room I will never understand How you sat for hours on the porch With the sun on your face and wind in your eyes You rested and watched, not even lifting a finger Remember when you wanted me To take your big old jacket Every time you stuffed it in my arms I wish I could take it from you now I’ll never forget your prickly moods Your eyes heavy older person blues But with me you laughed, your eyes wrinkling With your warm husky chuckle If I had known you would be gone I would have studied harder To understand your boring lectures To keep you company in conversation Born in a small village in China Where the chickens run wild, The oxen loiter by the water And pigs rampant with fleas You lived in Taishan Where the houses are made of stones No doors or running water And the bathroom shared by everyone The first in your family to leave and explore The great new world of America Looking back at it all, Did you ever accomplish that American dream? You did accomplish that American dream That dream of a better life That dream of happiness I became that dream Every life you planted in that great new world We’re thankful for the lives you gifted Every opportunity ever given Owed to you forever Thank you for your butterfly It has blessed me all this way I know you are flying by me Each time I catch the smell of thread Hidden in your room The thump of the machine Each thread with its own smell The warm aroma of textile fibers that fills the air The smell of home The smell of love Even now when I walk into your room I am sure I feel you flying by Can you sew for me one more memory before you go away? I wanted to say those words to you But you were gone too soon 所以我说再见蝴蝶
One day when l was in elementary school, my sister and I were trying to make Bead Pets. No matter how strictly we followed the instructions, we couldn’t seem to get it. After showering, I found a finished beaded butterfly on the table. My great grandmother had finished the beading without even looking at the instructions! The butterfly remains the most precious keepsake I have of hers. I wrote the poem with the metaphor of my beautiful great grandmother as a butterfly. My mentor helped me bring the sensory memories of my great grandmother to life on paper and helped me rememember images of her that I had not thought of in a long time.
Lauren Lee is a high school junior in Manhattan, New York. Based in Brooklyn, she is a writer who loves experimenting with new styles and genres; especially poetry and essay writing. She enjoys incorporating her own personal history and highlighting the experiences of other Asian Americans in her stories. Her pieces have been published in the Girls Write Now Anthology and the Stuyvesant Spectator. She has received Honorable Mention for poetry in 2021 in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. In her free time, she loves playing tennis, debating and baking.