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   t h e    m o n a r c h    t r e e

--- R A N D A L L   C O U C H

                         But what if God have seen, and Death ensue?
                                      —Paradise Lost IX, 826 
I knew I'd leave Broocke
when he said If you got sick,
you'd take me down with you.
We could lose everything. 

Two paths begin so close together, doomed by strange attractors to diverge: that slight initial variance in warmth, blown into unpredicted flight, traces a storm-lobed butterfly, a chaos.


Nothing's out of reach now.

My childhood books showed places men had never gone, and more that could be reached only with death and hardship. Now Marcia's husband Bill drills antarctic cores and I could hire a chalet in Nepal.

What's this unease? Mere nostalgia for adventure— exotic words, hard memsahibs and seven-league boots? A hunger to possess by knowing, to taste unending strangeness.

But is it good to be so close? How does sharpness love softness? * * A tree in Chincua shivers with its copper fruit. Fifty years of wing tags and now we know where the storm-blown wintering monarchs go.

So does a father from Remedios, holder of common land since the great reform. So do the truck drivers, half the year's one crop already gone to frost. So does the timber agent who buys the logged fir: food for children, for the father who approaches the forbidden tree to cut. * * * When I had breath, I used to read for the blind. I could think of no worse fate than to starve for words.

Now your Sunday service is to drive me past the city through fields where summer thrives in vetch and milkweed. The world seen once or twice a week grows large again.

Ahead the jointed studs of half-framed tracts spell sentences against the late sun, while two returning monarchs glint nearby, braiding what I see with what I can't.

I don't know any better how to leave. We could lose everything.

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