Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guest Blog: Monarch Migration Plunges, Plant Milkweed

Guest Blog
by Jonathan Skinner

I was fortunate to visit the monarch sanctuary in Zitácuaro (Estado de Michoacán, Mexico) many years back. Little could have prepared me for the erotic charge of thousands upon thousands of copulating monarch butterflies, hanging from the pines and falling through the air.

North of the border, little prepares one for the diaphanous and buoyant appearance of these hardy voyagers.

Are we prepared for a time when the glory of the monarchs' migration will live only in our childrens' storybooks? 

Excerpts from a recent New York Times article read:
The area of forest occupied by the butterflies, once as high at 50 acres, dwindled to 2.94 acres in the annual census conducted in December, Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas disclosed at a news conference in Zitácuaro, Mexico. 
That was a 59 percent decline from the 7.14 acres of butterflies measured in December 2011.
But an equally alarming source of the decline . . . is the explosive increase in American farmland planted in soybean and corn genetically modified to tolerate herbicides. 
The American Midwest’s corn belt is a critical feeding ground for monarchs, which once found a ready source of milkweed growing between the rows of millions of acres of soybean and corn. But the ubiquitous use of herbicide-tolerant crops has enabled farmers to wipe out the milkweed, and with it much of the butterflies’ food supply. 
 A rapid expansion of farmland — more than 25 million new acres in the United States since 2007 — has eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the monarchs with milkweed.

A more in-depth report can be found here.

When I wrote "Unfolder," I was thinking about forest fires. Fire, I now realize, takes many forms. (Including, perhaps, the fire of my own intrusion on that place.) Here is my poem for the day (originally published in Political Cactus Poems, Palm Press, 2005). 



the ardent ending
monarch’s ardor began
a large wedge-shaped
cloud in the spring
thousands were taking
a fluent thoughtful nap
re nocturne, alone
all of them witch-doctors
or in a Chinese dream
woken-up philosophers
the single golden rule
overarches, ark or pendant
limpidity of clouds

overlord my monarch
the length of two thumbs
light fills the windows
clings to sun struts
grows outward, leafing
monarch emerges steeled
blood jams into wings
all that tickling insect
clasped to cock’s fuzz
is a trance, inside syrups
a poison swapped about
bitter-tasting heart’s
spasm, an orange avoid

a million pages turning
the library of spring
spotted with shadows
the piteous monarch
propagates, replenishes
ejaculates homeward
to completion in summer
the monarch’s a cloud
woven of monarchs, one
leaf journey’s length
pulsating on, from ghosts
and milkweed deposits
a universe of monarchs

lazy winter monarch
on a warm day ventures
out for nectar, rubber
in the saps & rough stems
loves the poisoned milky
fields, sleepy his “eyes”
open above the coccyx
looking for black-smudged
veiny queens, wooed
by the harmfully harmless
lauzengiers, wing deep
slips between sign & referent
are not what they seem

monarch’s no mimic
no midas, this goldfeeler
melts you to the ore
nympho or mendicant
exasperating progress
discovered by millions
with wing covered sexes
gets sticky all over
in Zitacuaro it’s quiet
piteous monarch, go
roving, unfolding, trees
branched into flames
would that you lasted

NOTE: Written on news of a forest fire at the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) sanctuary in Mexico. “Lauzengiers” is from Old Occitan and means “flatterer.” The flattery of the edible viceroy mimic (Limenitis archippus) threatens the monarchs’ warning system—bright coloration meant to warn predators of the distasteful cardenolides the monarchs sequester from milkweed. When roosting monarchs unfold their wings to gather sunlight, it is as though an entire tree bursts into flame. 

for more on Jonathan Skinner and ecopoetics, see a fine interview at Poetry Foundation here.


No comments:

Post a Comment