Monarchs-Royal Wind Riders, poem excerpt by randomstoryteller catherine hamrick with images of butterflies clinging to branches

Monarchs: Royal Wind Riders

Monarchs-Royal Wind Riders, poem excerpt by randomstoryteller chamrickwriter image of butterfly after emerging from chrysalis

1

What is it to be a king,

To rule but an instant,

Driven by one grand design—

A never ceasing royal line

Of two, three, four generations

Spent spring into summer,

Brilliant solar flares

Fluttering five weeks

Towards inglorious death

Except for the season’s final heirs—

Migrants beating to Mexico,

Pausing only to humor

The fickle whims of high winds

By dropping low to tree-roost.

Like tiger-stripe curtains, they hang,

Smothering trunks and branches—

A huddled mass warming

Until they catch easy rides

On upward rising air

Or fly into the sun, basking

Beyond binocular view.

2

The cool, high mountains

Of central Mexico play host

To these savviest of tourists

That overwinter, mapless.

I, the prisoner of a GPS,

Wonder at the perfection

Of their 2,500-mile journey

To my southern backyard,

To pair off in early spring,

The season of love—so I hear.

Like tiny periods, eggs

Punctuate the underside

Of milkweed leaves;

Then hatched caterpillars gnaw

Delicious toxins in greedy growth—

Skin-shedding five times over

Until crawling off to shelter

Their rippled bodies

In quick-hardening cases of

Yellow-speckled jade.

3

In the fall of my thirteenth year,

A science teacher dispatched me

On a hunting trip to fill

A board with insect quarry.

For two weeks, I waited out

A chrysalis—finally spying

Orange-and-black wings

Behind a thin, transparent wall.

It cracked.

That hapless creature,

With tiny wings, crumpled and wet,

Clung to the shell of its broken home;

I hovered one hour, staring,

With a quick lid and a Mason jar

Fuming with a splash

Of rubbing alcohol.

The monarch’s wings dried, spreading,

And I scooped it to sudden murder

Within four desperate wing flaps.

I pinned my prize trophy

On the back of a cardboard box

Bumpily covered with burlap.

My teacher praised the centerpiece

Of that fine collection, and I wept.

Photo credit: Monarch butterflies clinging to branches by Kamchatka

Photo challenge: Earth (butterfly after emergence from chrysalis)

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