Butterfly Eyes (A Poem)

I watch her,

With her silvered hair, paper-like skin, and tired smile,

Sink into the chair, and begin to rock.

The wooden chair creaks and groans,

For years, that chair sat in its spot by the fireplace.

In it, this woman once rocked all four of her children,

At least my daddy says so.

I wonder if the chair is as tired as her.

She tells me her bones sometimes groan.

Maybe the chair’s do too.

She closes her eyes, they flutter open,

She smiles at me.

I smile back.

She closes them again, quietly,

Like butterfly wings,

I realize that eyes never make a sound when they open or shut.

And I wonder about growing up.

Would I ever be a grown-up?

Surely, she was not ever a child like me.

And, if she was a child, like she says she once was,

She must have been different somehow.

Once, as a child,

I read aloud, these very words, in my bedroom:

Even to your old age and gray hairs

I am he, he who will sustain you.

I have made you, and I will carry you;

I will sustain you, and I will rescue you.


After reading those words

And a moment of thought,

I stood, went to the mirror,

And I looked at my reflection.

My hair was not gray.

My skin was not like paper.

I was not a grown-up yet.

I was certainly not a grandma yet.

It seems not long ago,

That the warm colored light I might have mistaken for love,

Shined through the crack of my bedroom door.

That love frightened away the fears of the night,

As I burrowed deeper beneath the warmth of my sheets and quilt,

And it reminded me that daddy was not far.

It seems not long ago,

That with nothing better to do,

I sorted beads for hours on end,

Brought my dolls to life,

And tried to beat every boy in the neighborhood at a race.

It seems not long ago that

I was a child.

Silky brown hair that fell down my back, large curious eyes,

Skinny long legs, endless energy, and a sensitive heart.

It seems not long ago,

That I intimately knew the panic that only a child can know

When mom and dad left me with the babysitter.

When I made my blanket into a castle during nap-time and my pinky became the princess,

Or when hot bathwater sent chills through my body, and the suds became my fort.

But it is now,

That I wonder if any of that truly happened,

And the weight of today’s burden’s

Lies heavily upon my shrugging shoulders.

As a tear slips along the contours my cheek,

I look up to my door,

Only to find that this time,

No light shines through it.

My life is dictated not by the growls of my stomach,

The sun in the sky,

Or an impending nap,

But rather, by the words written in the squares of my calendar

And the numbers that glow from my clock.

I hear, like the echo of laughter, a time of simplicity.

But now, I have duties.

I must meet deadlines,

Achieve goals,

Make phone calls,

Complete assignments,

Involve myself in social obligations.

I wonder why it is

That my mind clenches around the vapor-like memories

Of my childhood,

 Like the fingers of an infant

Curl into tight, sweaty, lint-filled fists.

Those precious moments I can vividly recall,

I hold near and dear.

Only I

Will ever know them.

But at the same time, I cannot quite taste them

With the same intensity as I once could.

Why is it that my mind returns to that lovely place,

The castle I was born in,

With its strong, high walls,

And warm safe interior?

I realize,

I have something to hold fast to,

In the sticky, complicated web I now navigate,

Sometimes with ease,

Sometimes with great difficulty.

I have lessons and truths which even children can and do often learn:

I will not forget the energizing curiosity of a child,

An insatiable appetite for knowledge,

The safety and healing found in unconditional love,

Or the pleasure that makes its home

 in conquering simple tasks with great enthusiasm.

The light does not shine through my bedroom door,

Because I turned it off before I went to my room.

I locked the doors, I put away my books.

I moved laundry to the dryer,

And I straightened the kitchen.

But, when I open my curtains,

Peering out into the clear, blanket of late evening sky,

I see a beaming round moon,

Pinholes in the ceiling which glitter and dance,

And I taste the sweetness

That honey leaves after it is swallowed:

the words of my Father come to my mind:

Even to your old age, and gray hairs,
I am he, he who will sustain you.

I have made you, and I will carry you;

I will sustain you, and I will rescue you.


I go,

Turn on the light in hallway,

Crack my door,

And slip under my warm covers.

I rest my head on my pillow

And my eyes flutter shut,

Like butterflies.

Copyright 2013


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