Thursday, June 7, 2018

Two Flights

I wrote this poem about 30 years ago after learning about monarch migration:


Aloft with monarch
            butterflies heading
to Mexico   dense
                        sheets of velvet
crowd me orange
            black    the wings
soft and heavy
            brushing my flesh
no butterfly cries
                        but repeated wingthuds
            and creaking joints
patches of wingdust
                        perfuming the air

My flock surges
                        faster than clouds
            wings and startling
wings    heads wisely
                                    small   all eyes
and tongue   brown
                                    shriveled trunks
            tolerate my heavy
                        pink laboring flight
they conceal me
                        we become
                                      a butterflycloud
huge as a lake

                        When I start
to tumble    unthinking
                                    wings pummel me
            aloft      is it
the rustle lifting
                        me or vibrations
of color above
                        the invisible earth

Larvae fed only
            on milkweed soured
                        us to the taste
of birds

abandoned chrysalis shiny
                        greengold speckled
            dried in sun
to blow away
                        as wind-dust

Seventeen mariopa trees
            await us

            When I read this in class, a student (who knew) asked me, “Were you going through a divorce when you wrote this?”
            “So maybe you felt a lot of support when you were going through all the changes?”
            I’d never thought of those changes as having any bearing on the poem. I hope that student went on to teach English.

                                                             * * * * 

            This poem is more recent. When we lived in Gainesville, our dining room looked out onto the edge of Paynes Prairie State Park. In the poem I imagine a flight that Kim might be imagining:
The Flight

From your seat before the window you
lift from your chair and take flight
over Paynes Prairie – low at first,
skimming the barbed wire fence,
avoiding the still vacant blue bird house,
then gliding free, twisting over the grasses.
Startled egrets cock their heads
to look up, and sandhill cranes, yes,
crane their necks to see and cry their
raucous welcome to you, the newcomer.

You glide on silent wings over ponds
and marshes, the morning mists lifted,
the sun warm and golden, the breeze
strangely still. You lift yourself on soft
powerful wings, pass the stoic kestrel
standing sentinel on a leafless tree as
meadowlarks rise in alarm, gather, scatter,
and reassemble again in the grasses.
A great blue heron approaches and veers
away. You circle toward distant
trees edging the prairie, but no, in a graceful
turn you swerve back toward the house and me,
my coffee frozen inches from my lips, watching,
transfixed, my wife who was suddenly not
at my side eating breakfast. You skim low over
the reeds to check for frogs, then spy the bulls
ambling into the prairie and can’t resist bothering
them into a small stampede. You swoop
through our window, settle into your chair,
smooth your feathers, and nibble your toast.

1 comment:

  1. Climbed a mountain in Mexico to see the Monarch butterflies. I think I gave a print to Kim. It was one of the most memorable experiences we ever had. When the sunlight came through the trees, there were thousands of butterflies fluttering down and landing on us. I thought this would be a great place to end my life. I'm happy to still be alive!