new zealand electronic poetry centre


Len Lye

online works


O yess I used to know someone her name started with J and she used to twist around the 
door and make funny noises at the cat. NO! certainly not! Her name was Juniper, thatís 
watercress for celery. If you donít believe it, she also was once a nice yellow butterfly 
quite content to flap around with branches and green leaves to rest on and those very 
fluffy clock things t crawl up the stems of and look at and wonder how they were so 
simply made, after they were dandelions to fall off and float away. And all was gold that 
glitters and one day, not bothering about the buttercups and daisies, she sat on a large 
green leaf over the stream and the tips of her wings showed the rate of her heart-beats. 
Then she heard a funny noise and looked up and saw a dragonfly. It was me and I was a 
noisy dragonfly in those days and when I saw your bright yellow wings I came straight 
down to say something important. I said listen yellowtops, youíve been fluttering around 
very charmingly lately and Iíve been wondering if I could flutter along too. Iíd like 
extraordinarily much to see the honey and stuff thatís in the flowers and go new places 
toot sweet together. Iím tired of pretending to be a dragon, Iíd much prefer to laugh and 
talk easy with someone like you. Tut tut, you said, no thanks, you circle around too quick 
for me. Besides I donít like your long skinny frame and your vicious tail gives me the 
shivers and with your noise I could never hear myself flutter let alone have a peaceful 
meal. I said Madam you wrong me in many places, if you only knew how nice I could be. 
You said, maybe if you were a butterfly the same as me it might be all right. So I said, just 
wait and Iíll be right back, I know a magician, a very clever grasshopper, who can make 
me brand new and no trouble, and away I zipped. He was sitting under a wide blade of 
grass and blinked suspiciously at me until I gave the password, which was Do you know 
me mister yes by jesus no. He took a little stick from under his left arm and pulled his 
spectacles down over his nostrils to look at me better and tapped me between the eyes 
three times and said, go your way rejoicing. I said, no I wish to be made into a purple and 
orange butterfly. He coughed down his throat rubbed his hind legs together and said, go 
and sit down Ďneath yonder mushroom or whatever it is; and then with a kick, a hop and a 
jump he caught a pretty particle floating high in the air and came down and rubbed it in his 
hands and murmured over it walla walla and with a quick lunge threw it at me. I darted 
away and when I got into the air I was much surprised to find that I couldnít fly straight. I 
stopped and looked at myself and behold I was a brand new purple and orange butterfly 
with two tails where only one had been and I noticed that my entrails were going tick-tock 
instead of zip-zop. I called down, thanks mister Iíll do it as good for you some day, and 
away I flowed back to the land of milk and honey where I knew youíd be gracefully 
lingering on various boughs and there I found you and you gave me one long penetrating 
glance and said, somehow you seem different. I felt all my orange and purple glow with 
pleasure, so I said, how about us going somewhere bright and early, and you said, I donít 
mind if I do. So the wind blew a bit brisker, and we jumped on it, heading for the river, 
and we got to talk about shady resting places and patches of sunlight to burnish our wings. 
But the water was by far the best, so clear that we could see the scales on the minnowsí 
cheeks without any strain at all on our eyes. You said, it would be a great pity for us to 
wash our feet in such lucid water, it reminds me well of my motherís tears. So we sat idly 
watching all the different effects. Suddenly you said, see those trout? I crowded closer 
and said, yes. You said, well, more than anything else Iíd like to kiss a trout on its nose, 
and I said, well, Iíll soon fix it because when I was a dragonfly I knew a kingfisher who 
had a lot of influence with these fish. Iíll go and find him while you pick out the nose you 
like best. So I jumped onto a breeze and went along till I saw him whetting his beak on a 
sandstone. He didnít know me, so I gave the watchword Do you know me mister yes by 
jesus no. He said, no, not unless Iím cockeyed. I answered, well Iím the dragonfly that 
carried the mails from Gundagai to Jerusalem and Iím now travelling incognito. Would 
you arrange for the kissing of a troutís nose by a friend of mine? Thereís no obstacle, he 
said, you just press this button. So I tucked the button carefully under my wing saying, 
Iíll do it as good for you some day, and when I got back you had sorted out the nose and 
called it Adolphus. Looking down I saw Adolphus unaware of the great honour coming 
and pressed the button for the works: Adolphus made a rush for fresh air and leaped clean 
out of the water and you lightly fluttered up to him and butterflied his nose to yours and 
were very happy because you had done something most unusual for a nice yellow butterfly.


© Len Lye

Last updated 22 August, 2001