cover image No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies: A Lyric Essay

No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies: A Lyric Essay

Julian Aguon. Astra House, $23 (128p) ISBN 978-1-66260-163-7

In this incandescent debut, human rights attorney Aguon celebrates the power of thought and literature through probing reflections on finding hope in the face of an “unforgiving timeline.” Assuming “we have about eight years left to get our collective shit together... and ensure the future habitability of the earth,” Aguon meditates on the ways that “bearing witness” can help foster change in a declining world. In “The Properties of Perpetual Light,” he considers the brilliance of Black feminist Audre Lorde’s words, which attempt to “close some gap between blindness and our better selves.” The book’s title essay, meanwhile, addresses the inescapable grip of colonialism on Guam, Aguon’s homeland, while ruminating on his vision of a global justice movement anchored “in the intellectual contributions of Indigenous peoples... who have a unique capacity to resist despair through connection to collective memory.” Looking to Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, Aguon urges readers to “listen to one’s own heart.... anyone who interferes with another’s destiny will never discover their own.” In eloquent maxims that call forth comparisons to Thoreau, Aguon pits lofty ideals against a backdrop of racism, brutality, and habitat destruction, but optimism prevails: “What is hope,” he wonders, “if not a stubborn chink of light in the dark?” This is bound to inspire any activist. (Sept.)