First Lines — Perfect as they are
- Published: September 3, 2020
We have bugs on our porch. Lots of them. Not just the usual ants and spiders — but monarch butterflies, in all stages of their lives.
For the past three summers, I’ve raised monarch butterflies on our porch in order to support — to beautifully augment — the local monarch population. It started quite innocently, with just a few caterpillars of good size that I shepherded through an “instar” change or two, as their molting is known, into chrysalis phase and, finally, into full-fledged butterfly-adulthood. The practice expanded in scope and meaning as my sense of purpose and usefulness deepened, and as my love of these creatures’ weird, wiggly, silent and self-contained world grew, and grew, and grew. Like a caterpillar!
We now have more than 40 monarchs, from egg to butterfly, living on our porch. The photo printed here is our first monarch of this season. She became an exquisite, jade-green and gold-banded chrysalis on Aug. 15, and eclosed into an orange-and-black monarch butterfly on Aug. 26. Eclosed! That’s a real butterfly-word, meaning “emerged.” Among other things, butterflies possess a lovely language.
The transformation a monarch undergoes from caterpillar to winged-thing is severe. As a chrysalis, nearly every part of the creature is dissolved, then refashioned into a life form dramatically dissimilar to what came before. And yet — there’s continuity, mysterious to ponder.
That’s the impetus behind the poem below. But really, the impetus is the beings themselves, the transformations they enact, and are. If all of life is just streams of energy encountering other streams, I am happy to flow my life with theirs — the monarchs, regal and humble, always changing, perfect as they are.
House of Change
“…out of that house of change now comes
a fragile winged creature of the air…”
—Hal Borland’s Book of Days
Change is coming
to the house again change
that multiplies my fingers and puts wing
beats in my hair
I thought I could be orange forever
or gold or whatever
colors dimming dancing came to me
I thought I could be changed
forever and so not
where are we going brother sister
father mother back along
the chain of creatures the necklace ladder
shadows crawling out
of the stars
From the Szempruch family: A monarch butterfly emerges from its chrysalis Aug. 26, 2020, at 9:37 a.m., much to the delight of Abigail and Hazel. (Video by Lucas Szempruch)
*This column originally appeared in the Sept. 3 issue of the News. To read other First Lines poetry columns, visit the archive page here.