The Great Monarch Migration

Female monarch butterfly perching on red petal flower

Today travel restrictions due to COVID-19
keep tourists away from the Great Monarch Migration.
But two men linked to the butterfly reserve,
outspoken to illegal logging in the forest,
have died, their bodies found here in Angangueo, Mexico,
their deaths in February 2020 concealed in mystery.

My friend, world traveler of historic sites,
shows me pictures of Angangueo, Mexico,
a mining town northwest of Mexico City,
where tourists in buses once photographed
the procession of the monarchs.

Why do the monarchs perch?
Billions of butterflies
kneel and bend to nectar,
watch and wait on every branch and bush.

I look at the photos a second time.
I wonder why feather-like creatures
once cross the busy cities and today’s deserts,
fly on bright, sunny days.
Escape the cold, experts say, but why
do the monarchs feast and die?
Habitat loss, climate change?

She whispers,
“No one knows.”
But it is forbidden to trap butterflies there.
So many flutter, flail, and flap.

I study the pictures a third time and say,
“Their shadows hide the mountain’s greenery.”
Pigmented scales diffract
ultraviolet light,
undetectable to the human eye.

The butterflies feast,
cluster on nature’s branches.
Tree limbs crack,
collapse under the insects’ beating breaths.

She shows me more photos.
Back then, nearby, outside a church,
a woman kneels and weeps after confession.
Lilies stand at the base of the crucifix.

The Mexican flag drapes our communion table.
The red silk reminds me of the Hill of Golgotha,
the blood spilled after one last drink and Jesus nailed,
the green, a heritage to sanctuary.

My friend and I sip Mexican tea.
She shows me the rocky road,
her hour’s climb uphill
long ago to see the butterflies.


Poem by Karen Carter.

Karen Carter teaches high school English at Columbia Early College High School, in Columbia, North Carolina, a place of rural-remote beauty near the Outer Banks. She was the first female to earn a PhD in Religion at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Her poems have appeared in The Broadkill Review, Miller’s Pond, Wild Roof Journal, The Write Launch, and The Avalon Literary Review.