Monday, September 16, 2019

Monarchs and Migration and The Lovely Corpse—September Murfin Verse

Monarchs rest in the doomed National Butterfly Center refuge in Texas.
They say that this September Monarch butterflies are making a comeback of sorts.  My nature loving Facebook friends, who notice such things, commented from several locations and posted photos.  But before the celebration for the gets out of hand, ecologists, who should know, express concerns about long-range climate change and habitat destruction and the particularly egregious bulldozing of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, a critical preserve, to make way for Donald Trump’s beloved border wall.
A poem from my 2004 collection We Build Temples in the Heart took note of the epic fall migration when it was still routine.

In better times, Monarch in migration.

Later they will come,
            the legions of Canada
            on the edge of cutting cold,
            backs scraping stratus slate,
            arrayed in military majesty,
            dressed in ranks and counting cadence,
            squadron after squadron, an air armada,
            single minded in their migratory mission.

But now,
            when September sun lingers and
            lengthened shadows hint ferocity to come,
            the first glints of gold and black flit
            with seaming aimlessness,
            pushed here and there by the faintest zephyr,
            the pioneers of a nation,
            descended from Alberta prairies
            and Minnesota Lakes.

One will linger
            briefly on my shoulder 
            if I am blessed, then be off again.

Then, if she is lucky
            she will pause to rest with
            the millions along the bend of the Rio Grande
            before finding a winter’s respite of death
            amid deep Mexican forests.

And it will turn again next spring—
egg to larva,
            larva to silken slumber
                        pupa to Monarch
                                    Monarch to migration.

            Oh ye proud Canada,
                        mute your boastful blare—
the mighty bow before true courage.

—Patrick Murfin
The approach of the International Climate Strike this Friday, September 20 reminded me of this other fragile canary-in-the-coal-mine.
In 2015 Lisa Haderlein, a McHenry County maven of the environment and preserver and restorer of the wild places posted a photo on Facebook.  It was taken outside the Starline Gallery in Harvard.  It got me to thinking….
Lisa Haderlein's telling photo.

The Lovely Corpse

Monarchs, they say, are a dying breed.
Not the superfluous Royals of Windsor
            or oil rich Arabs.
They will disappear, too, 
in their own good time
but are not our business here today.

I am talking about those golden orange and black
            zephyr riding marvels that by the millions
            used brighten Septembers 
            with hints golden autumn yet to come
            on their epic migrations 
            from Canadian prairies
            to Mexican piney woods.

They are scarcer with every passing year.

Now each sighting is an adventure
            like spotting some rare songbird
            flitting unexpectedly from bough to bough.

They say the warming world is to blame 
            which is tough on common milkweed,
            the migrant’s only diet.


But if I say it out loud, 
some Fox News talking head
will scream that I’m a liar and a fraud
and someone will decide that after all
they are illegal immigrants
and likely terrorists to boot
and propose to build a wall net
to ensnare them lest they
infect our purity.

A friend of mine espied one the other day
            and thought to snap a photo,
            but the monarch was not on wing
            or resting on some rare milkweed pod,
            but splatted against the gleaming grill
            of a Jaguar.

Think of all that horse power 
            from the carbon spewing engine
            that cooks the atmosphere 
            that kills the milkweed
            yet made this assassination

—Patrick Murfin

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