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Saturday, February 01, 2020


by Mary K O'Melveny    

A Mexican environmental activist who fought to protect the wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly has been found dead in the western state of Michoacán, two weeks after he disappeared. Homero Gómez González, a former logger who managed El Rosario butterfly reserve, vanished on 13 January. His body was found floating in a well on January 29, 2020, reportedly showing signs of torture. The motive for his murder remains unknown, but some activists speculated that it could have been related to disputes over illegal logging. —The Guardian, January 30, 2020. Photo from CNN, January 31, 2020.

I was not always a lover of butterflies.
Once I was once a logger, clear cutting these pine
forests like those who later turned against me.

One autumn morning I saw conifers tremble
like a young bride, heard sounds that danced like silk in wind.
I understood then that my job was to save them.

How can such tiny creatures travel three thousand miles?
I queried them as they shivered, shimmied there,
circled around each limb like jeweled bracelets.

For two months, sunshine is their compass as they fly.
They come to rest here in our pines. Skies thicken with orange,
yellow, white, laced with black. My silhouettes of autumn.

No one prayed as hard as me for their safe arrival.
They write their memoirs in these deep woods.
It is their great-grandchildren who will return next year.

Sometimes I stood at the edge of the tree line to listen
to their angel sounds.  Each synchronized wing beat calmed me.
It was like heaven, if one believes in such magical thinking.

I felt such sorrow when their arrival began to thin down,
turn translucent, like a memory that fades when we most need
it to be sharp.  I craved vivid images of sunlight at rest.

When the end was near, I pleaded for mercy.  Not for me.
My expendability was always understood.  For my floating
charges whose safety is all we have left as refuge from ourselves.

Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals. Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age is available from Finishing Line Press. Mary’s poetry collection Merging Star Hypotheses was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2020.