Describing the Monarchs

“Too bad that ‘bloom’ is overused,” you say
As we stand beneath a eucalyptus tree,
Your arm around me, head bent back to see
The monarchs celebrating New Year’s Day.
“And ‘burn’ is wrong, and ‘rust’ suggests decay,
But I like ‘bless.’” A thousand blessings cling,
Each with white spots on black-and-orange wings,
To branches unaccustomed to such beauty.

But burn they do: each tiny, beating flame
Lights up the tree, a bloom that’s made of fire,
Flickering in winter to proclaim
A leaf gives solace, milkweed sates desire.
They smolder, cool as rust, in spangled air,
Then fly like sparks, illumining the year.

Lucille Lang Day

From The Curvature of Blue, first published in Measure