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The Monarch Butterfly Migration, 1943

John Reibetanz
From:   Afloat, Brick Books, 2013.

For Homero Aridjis, poet and environmentalist

That year     after sun-aproned earth     brought forth her paler
ochre yield of chickpea and maize     blue air broke into
a blossoming of flame     more millions of orange petals

than you or your brothers had ever seen     floating free
of any bough     or invisibly branching     bloom from
a tree all water     wider than the mountain     higher

than its fir-crowned summit     monarchs in silk robes rippled
along village streets     lapped into open casements     spilled
down from pink stucco walls     over the cold white skin of

crosses where votive candles     blinked and wept     to welcome
home these souls of the village dead     alighting     folding
their wings in momentary prayer     before taking up

winter quarters in the palace of firs     those pillars
enamelled wings mosaiced     in return for wood warmth
you breathed on morning walks     too young at three to take in

how these hangers-on     could so outnumber all the souls
one town might lose     but wise enough even then to sense
a miracle (your word)     in their coming     how could your

peaceful hills     dream of their flight     as from firebombed cities
of Europe     know of the flame tornados that wrenched trees
from earth     gables and roofs from houses     human spirits

from the blackened chrysalids     of incinerated
children     breath-looted elders     bodies shrivelled too small
for hearts seeking the freedom to fly     why would they not

choose this metamorphosis of flame     when cathedrals
were shattering     this soft floating stained glass     blazoned like
tropical fruit     segments of sun-sweetened fire     contained

by the thinnest black bands     unfraught with memory     larval
vestiges of crawl and clutch     sloughed off     in an old world
whose wars     your namesake blindly sang     o singer facing

down     a shrieking ground assault where metal fangs     gnaw at
the cross-tipped steeples of fir     that have sanctuaried
these fragile monarchs     of the unrelenting spirit

o lover of mountain streams that echo     the soft rain
of rallying wings     sing the rhythms you share with them
that heart and butterfly may lift     and find their way home.

John Reibetanz's works copyright © to the author.

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