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Monarch & Mulberry

By
September 4, 2009

Listen—those two _M_’s—mulberry tree,
crawling with monarchs,

that birdshit beautiful
mess, staining bare feet and slopping

cars, and under the leave’s web of light all of us
squatting, pushing tiny free toys

finger-deep into the soft, purple loam,
all of us plucking those live yellow petals

wing by wing, all of us ignorant
of the butterfly’s migration to Mexico.

Who knew then they traveled
so far? Who knew there was anywhere

to go, or how years later
there would be so little left—

that tract of land razed flat
and vinyled up in every shade

of beige, every clean drive ending
with a rubbermaid mailbox and a bradford

pear popping its popcorn styrofoam
of blooms? Who can remember the

brambles and the rusted fence, the darkwater
paths of brittle-limbed weed trees,

and the butterflies, who remembers
so many, those milkweed-nursed sunbursts

of the cricketing world now for sale
in double-panes of glass on Bleecker,

a junk table of blue morphos and blue-winged
cicadas, some even shellacked into pendants,

shrinky-dink art debris bought and locked
in a box of gum and plastic beads and a puffed-up

sand dollar rattling its five tiny dove bones,
a bleached legend of goodwill and peace?

Oh, monarch. Not you. You don’t remember.
And no wonder we feel this way now, the world

less of a thing to love. For us, we barely remember
that humid summer, the fan oscillating, the kitchen,

always the fly-speck kitchen. We were watching you,
all of you, flit in the mulberry out back, and after, because

we were children, we tracked that crushed fruit across
the linoleum. After that, the sound of hammers and crows

through the open window, then somebody needs to
cut down that goddamn tree.He was the one said that,

and she agreed. And while we were busy not caring
anything our parents said, there you were, all of you,

no more able to steer yourself
than plastic grocery bags or receipts or anything

littered to the wind, but you knew something
we didn’t—exactly where to go.

G

nickolebrown.jpgNickole Brown is the author of Sister: Poems, a novel-in-poems published by Red Hen Press in 2007. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council. Brown worked at Sarabande Books for ten years and currently teaches at the low-residency MFA program at Murray State. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Poet’s Recommendations:

Interpretive Work: Poems by Elizabeth Bradfield

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf by Laure-Anne Bosselaar

Tender Hooks: Poems by Beth Ann Fennelly

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