Three Poems

Butterfly Song

Among the offenses of the former County Executive,
selling the last undeveloped County land, a swath
on the migratory path of monarch butterflies. 
This I read, this I repeated, this I blogged,
but only as a minor note in a piece
deploring the tenants evicted,
the buildings fallen to ruin,
the ownership of the land
now in a state of limbo. 

Early the next morning
I could hear his voice like
the heavy metal of a jail door
clanging shut, shutting out fresh
air. The sun, a clear blue sky, garden
plants needing water urged me outdoors. 
Water sputtered through the hose. Robins
stood alert. The neighbor’s lilacs waved, waved
in the breeze, spoke bright purple, the lowing branches
a softer, calming tone.

And then the monarch.

Bright pulsing wings
on the frame of my door
steady. That chill morning
that morning’s calming thrill, 
mere coincidence? I stood still.

Profound quiet that morning
despite the rush of traffic,
phones, clocks whirring
up the hours, despite
for-sale shrill. A pause

for the butterfly’s song. 

Maybe so much depends on
what tune you are looking for,
what you’ve done with silence,
what prompts you to see, to act,
what notes you’ve already begun
to sing, what rhythm your heart beats.


At Mount Zion Church near Philadelphia, Mississippi

For James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman

Burned down to the bell Freedom Summer
then resurrected in red brick, a site now
for civil rights pilgrims, this church, its grounds
with three crosses, held me like a womb of silence.

Surely the commercial-sized panel truck
jolted and creaked down the rutted road,
but its unblemished white body, like some
unpurged ghost in my mind,

suddenly loomed large and larger, the vehicle
edging in on me, stopping, so the driver, White
like me, my age, could question me face to face.

Do I know where highway 740 is at?
I relaxed, the question no challenge. I had a map,
fetched it from my car, looked, but could not
get my bearings.

He took my map, studied it, returned it to me.
I used to live here, he says and breathes in
then exhales, slowly. But
everything’s changed.

“Is that right?”
He showed no doubt. Yes.

I watched him pull back onto the road
looked for a logo on his truck. None.
Checked the map index. What was he looking for? 
There is no highway 740.

Maybe I misremember what number he asked for.
That was the summer we turned the corner
of a new century. I write a dozen years later,
and I still don’t know.


Missy at Peace

Arms extended upward, muscles taut,
thumb firm against tack, posters
scholarly blue, searing green: peace
meeting Thursday. Up these stairs,
down this hallway. Here. This room.

Chicago rally Saturday. All in favor?

Hands low, easy, on the steering wheel.
Halfway to the Loop, she reaches for a CD,
long fingers, trimmed nails, clean,
curved, skimming the edge, the center.

You’ll like this.

Palm flat to tap the beat, then double-time
laugh-singing. Dreaming. Maybe after graduation
Palestine. To help with the harvest.
Olives growing ripe in the hot sun. For now
stone, steel , glass, on the way
Daley Plaza, untitled Picasso.

Missy’s hand up to her face,
she tucks hair behind her ear.
Where are the directions? 
When will we get there, Missy?

We’re on Michigan Avenue.
It’s impossible to get lost.

—Margaret Rozga, Milwaukee, WI