If The Last Monarch Falls From The Forest

By: Gary Paul Nabhan

The mere sight of monarchs wintering like shingles
Nestled in the arms of the oyamel firs
Lingers like the first taste of truffles
Never leaving you to your own isolation
Like the free-leaving bacteria, who, long ago,
Became the mitochondria producing energy
for the rest of us,
Monarchs will enter the cells where
memories are stored
To inhabit your wildest dreams.

So what, say professors of philosophy
If monarchs remain only in your memory
Does that fact alone also make them a reality
Even if the last is lost from its link with oyamels
Through the forces of herbicides, deforestation, or
political dysfunction?

Hypothetical questions such as these
are a sort of ethical felony
Dulling rather than sharpening
the functioning of synapses
Preparing us only to further tolerate an eternity
of monotonies.
They will never please or ease the heart
of any child
Who just once, by stealth or luck, perhaps,
Felt the flutter of a monarch’s life in her hands.


-Gary Paul Nabhan, in the fiftieth year since Rachel Carson’s death