Sanctuario El Rosario

Susan Coultrap-McQuin

No way to reach them except to climb

            ten thousand feet above the sea.

One foot ahead of the other

            over mud and rocks,

                        up chipped cement steps,

                                    around errant tree roots.

                                                The first few—circling—

                                                no more than those who dance

                                                through prairies in August heat.

My calves cramp.

            I gasp in thin air,

                        scan layers of trees

                                    for the promised view—

                                                A million monarchs, flown south,

                                                who winter here every year.

Still I mount,

            hiking sticks forward,

                        planted, lifted,

                                    camera ready until

                                                Evergreens bow under monarchs’ weight.

                                                Oyamel firs turned copper, sway.

A rope signals stop.

I stand with pilgrims at the spot.

Silent.

                                                            A whirlwind of orange

                                                                   spins upward.

                                                            Startled monarchs rise,

                                                                become black dots

                                                              against a bright sky,

                                                thick as snow showers back home.

                                                Their faith in DNA carried them here

                                                    on wings so fine they filter light.

                                                            A whisper of wings

                                                            like murmured prayers

                                                                    fills the air.

                                                            Three settle on my head,

                                                        softer than hands ruffle hair,

                                                    offer the communion of souls.

                                    When they lift away,

                        earth drops under my feet.

            I stride down the mountain,

carrying the benediction of wings.


About the Author

Susan Coultrap-McQuin is a retired educator, avid gardener, and frequent traveler. Recent poems have appeared in journals such as Talking Stick, The Moccasin, and The Dewdrop, and anthologies including Capsule Stories Isolation Edition, This Was 2020, and Quiet Diamonds. Her chapbook, What We Bring Home, poems inspired by living and traveling in Southeast Asia, was released in October.