Silence for Those Who Nest
A poem for Homero Gómez González, environmental activist and protector of monarch butterflies
You sleep with a closed fist, and uncurl your fingers in the morning. Lying
when you say your dreams were gentle: your peace is none of my business.
The oils on our palms are dangerous enough to disturb anyone’s rest.
On protected land, orange trees breathe. The air is streaked with bright bodies. We can eat our
envy at a table made of wood and right angles. We can claim the unmoored and adrift by
leaving our gum wrappers to the wind. Less defined by lung-like undulation
than our feet on the necks of crocuses who have mustered the courage to grow
above ground, even as weather has yet to pull out her teeth.
You want me to listen to you? Human, with your bootstraps, your dynamite-packed
democracies. For every butterfly at the El Rosario sanctuary, there are five left to earth
north of the border. Five bodies marking burial ground for a dream of mountaintops and the
taste of sacred fir trees’ thick shade on spooled tongue.
Your fingers pluck mosquitoes from the air when it gets heavy, mine lay still with
blood-as-honey-trap. Once, I found a pair of hands so tender I could not distinguish their
touch from violence. The palms were as dry as a page. Can you boil down migration to the
bodies of butterflies, laid to rest on milkweeds from
Michigan to Mexico? All your economies are as fragile as their wings.
Where is your reasonable center now, when a man’s body is in a well
because he believed in the honest day’s work of kissing wildflowers goodnight.
At the butterfly sanctuary in El Rosario,
the orange trees still, colored breath held on the sides of each monarch’s abdomen. You
can’t tell me why it takes five generations for monarchs to travel down south, and only
one to return. Can you keep a straight face when you claim this land is yours?
For All the Cherry Blossoms Swept Roadside
My city was invaded by sweet smelling clouds. Men in
white button downs are ruining my life, and they do so
while crushing cumulus blossoms between their fingers.
That same week, the snake I flushed down the toilet re-
turned to me as a full-grown python, scarred from its life
in the sewers but stronger for it. He loved me until I went
blue in the face, until I had no air left to convince him that
no matter how much it hurt, it worked didn’t it? Now he’s
the strongest creature in any room he slithers into. Strong
enough to swallow me whole, and so he did. Gentle
enough to sing me lullabies through the walls of his
stomach, and so he did this too until I crumbled into
dreams of veterans with cigarettes that never burn down,
of dogs drinking straight from their owners’ cupped hands.
Where sprinklers are play-things reserved for heavy
months and trees are either melting in the heat, or too tired
to hold their branches up. The answer depends on
if you trust in our solidity or not. Either way, acid laps
against my ankles. It rises—slowly—while I sleep, unaware.
A Resource War for Butterfly Wings
Each night I dream of wounded ground: planes singing too loud as they make
themselves lighter, red blossoms waxing in their wake. The last garden—cratered land.
I asked the militia men for the blue of a butterfly’s wing because I am surrounded
by steel. Human touch can turn something useless; its crucial to remember that.
The dark is so impatient now, tripping over her shoes to reach morning. I have no such hurry;
dust settles and then we begin the process of kicking ground into sky once again.
Will you swallow me? This full moon I waited for you to shed your skin, find yourself cleansed
in the light of your God, an insurance company calculating the worth of your clean blood.
High horses with gray manes. Bodies on both sides sprout into wide-open mouths. I am both the
knight returning his sword to water and the woman whose arm rises to retrieve it.
Fresh water fetus, delivered by a body that only exists because there is land to reign it in.
I must be born again to summer, when water grows warm and I rise from her form,
pushing myself head first along the rocks. Lakeshore mother with a full mouth.
In a better world, she would swallow all of us with no promise of resurrection,
until our bodies displaced her own, and water soaked our old homes. Gentler residents,
with no need to theorize about scarcity, whose body cannot own land, only swallow it.
Clara Trippe is a Midwest poet living and writing on the East Coast. She is a graduate of Grinnell College’s English department, and her work has been featured in The Normal School, The Shallow Ends, Rust + Moth, Glass Poetry Press’ Poets Resist feature, and Paperbark Literary Magazine. Clara is a lover of queer theory and freshwater. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @mid_west_dad.