By Jane Liu
I have always been fascinated with butterflies: their ephemeral incandescence and natural metamorphosis astounds me.
Across cultures and regions, butterflies are symbols of hope and change. In New York City, there are few butterflies of the sort captured by glossy magazines, but the many revolutions emblazoned across monochromatic newsprint serve in their stead.
When A revolution begins, No gunshot marks the start It begins with soundless wings Sugarspun wings that bear a coming hurricane Holding aloft a body close to death Eggs are laid and discarded by the starved founders Days later, perhaps one egg cracks The inching body munches on young leaves While an eagerly watching audience, gap-toothed And knee-skinned, shudders in raw anticipation. When A revolution gains momentum, No one believes that it can survive, not even You, the caretaker and the scientist You tuck the curled thumb-sized flesh Into a soft white prison first A loose netted pavilion, or a cold glass conservatory To keep it safe and sheltered You control the temperature and fetch sustenance You bring pills and water because you're scared It looks so delicate; it is delicate. When A revolution finds itself caged, you feel sorry The revolution is supposed to be wild and free Did you take it home and welcome it into your life? No. You stole it and lied, saying It couldn't have survived without you You know it'll leave You want to pet it; you can't Because the chrysalis is shaking slightly with the breeze It can be a hurricane, and a tide, and a quake. It is all that, and more. When A revolution breathes in those first Struggling breaths, it is so easily defeated Those breaths are butterfly scales You can't touch, you can't approach the glass The revolution is fragile and delicate The organism has All of the colors and none of the substance. When A revolution's growth shudders Like an infant's soft skull, the exoskeleton of the revolution Has to knit together; needs a nurturer And a protector and a fighter until The chrysalis split open, and the revolution Leaves its former home, the casing, to shrivel and dry. When A revolution finds its footing On slender hairy legs It isn't just for you any longer It's for a world, for the cruel universe of people Who would not be this gentle. When A revolution lights the thin membranes, Of its forewing and its hindwing They have not frayed or torn The veins are narrow and sure The cells sprouting from the base in Striped black and orange are glistening With mucus and new life That's when the revolution takes flight. When A revolution launches itself into the air It swallows up the sun and Stars and earth and all the space In between; the empty spaces and the Full spaces; the places that wound and The ones that throb A revolution captures all In a vibrant net of lines and curves That flows from the base of a sweeping wing, And the cycle begins anew.
Jane Liu is a class of 2016 mentee alum from Brooklyn, NY.
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