Here, late in August, when even the bean fields
are heavy with pods, it is blossoms that I want,
not the fruit of the season, not the acorns
and buckeyes that the squirrels are carrying off.
I want nectar, the death-defying food of the gods,
honeydew, or the distilled winelike sap of apples
and pears, anything intoxicating enough to make
an insect eat in spite of summer storms, three days
of wind and cold, enough to blow us all off course.
Trapped indoors, twelve, fourteen, now sixteen
monarchs cling to the mesh in the far corner
of the cage where the sun last appeared.
I’ve exhausted my garden, already raided
the parks, brought home coneflowers and
daisies, clover and black-eyed Susans.
Pulling on muck boots, I drive to the ditches
looking for goldenrod, and blue-eyed grass—
all the stuff that makes my family sneeze.
I want the best that the earth has to offer,
not the produce, but the promise of immortality,
that these butterflies, through their children
and grandchildren, will live forever, will fly away
and rise again among the Texas bluebells, will mate
and return to us each spring. I crush an orange,
garnish it with flowers, set a butterfly on the sticky
rim of the saucer. I roll out her proboscis
until it touches the sweetness, and she drinks.