Dance of the Monarchs

While watering freshly planted iris in late-August afternoon
beside the creosoted perimeter of the compost pile,
I noticed a monarch butterfly perched
on the heavy-lobed lower branch of a cedar tree.

Halfway through the spraying,
it loosened itself from whatever held it there
and made its way, more or less,
over to where blue clusters of clover

had bloomed among the volunteers
of grass and legume that had sprouted
from the low matted pile of last winter’s hay scraps
pitched over the galvanized railings of the round pen.

I set the hose down slowly
and crept my way over to take a picture
but something about a form this size 
spurred it into flight over toward the peach tree.

After flying a wide spastic circle of sorts,
it flew back and flitted once again
among the plush blooms,
settling a bit as I finished up the watering.

Just as I walked past the corner of the barn,
I saw it rise up into flight chasing another monarch.
Too far away to see the telltale black spots
and not being all that well-versed anyway

in such fine distinctions as butterfly gender,
I could not tell if it was attempting to mate
or chasing away perceived competition.
It is not always easy to tell among my own species

where notions of orientation are generally more obvious
whether such close encounters are an attempt at romance
or just pursuing the chance of asserted domination
in a more complicated dance than the image of two monarchs,

their black and orange frames suddenly flamed
by Kansas sun as they rose just above
the flaking corner of a weathered white barn,
neon shapes flaring above three acres of fescue

and a small cluster of blooming clover.
It seems strange to see such disputes
in what seems to be a place of plenty
and yet completely normal

in a world where things as fragile as butterflies
fight as best they can,
contesting the privileges of food and sex
as vigorously as the hungriest man

who often forgets he has been made—
by God’s own will—
just a little lower than the angels,
rather than only slightly above

the beasts of the field.


H. Arnett
8/24/2022

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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