Under the Lychee Tree

It’s midday in the shade
under the lychee tree
three skinny little local girls
squat on their haunches
twigs in their hands
scratching the ground
lantern bugs, geckos and
cane spiders asleep in the heat
perch silently, unmoving
in the branches above

I’m going to be the butterfly
‘kay? chirps Malia
okay, I’ll be the prince, says Lokai
silent Araya continues to scratch
nothing in particular in the dirt
the other two wait for her to speak
finally Malia and Lokai ask
Araya, will you be the princess?
Araya looks down at the ground
and her voice rises
I don’t want to be a princess
I want to be the King!

silence and frowns all around
Malia begins to grow wings
of caramel and soft butter-yellow
her torso elongates into
a fat fuzzy pink boa of a body
and King Araya proclaims:
Lokai, if you can catch Malia
and hold her in your hand
for five whole minutes
you will turn into a beautiful
black butterfly-prince, marry Malia
and flutter forever happily ever after

What’s the King going to do?
query the butterfly and the prince
Araya replies, slowly enunciating
with Shakespearean pauses
the KING…is…H-U-N-G-R-Y
I order all-you-can-eat
potato chips and pizza delivery
in one hour for all my people!
the kingdom stands and chants
Hurray! Yay! Yay! Yay! Hurray!
their sticks clickity-click
in the tree boughs
then in unison, one big whack-attack
sticks flail above their heads
down fall all dead leaves
and the girls make a beeline
for the house

lantern bugs, geckos and cane spiders
wake, watch the sky and
wait for dusk to descend
soon they, too, will retreat and
make their way to the house
to dine on cockroaches and silverfish
from the high corner of a window
or the edge of the ceiling
motionless in their all-night hunt
they will keep a sharp eye
on a sleeping king
a prince and a butterfly
for when morning comes
all will return
to slumber and jubilee
under the lychee tree


Photo ©2011 Tim Houghton/sharpwideopen.com
Tim found the lantern bug in a lychee tree “in his mum’s garden in Hong Kong.”

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One thought on “Under the Lychee Tree

  1. Pingback: Lantern bug | Sharp Wide Open

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