The 2River View 27.1 (Fall 2022)

Nicelle Davis

The Dying: What does heaven look like to plants?

The monarchs have been off course for years now. Migration shifts
were a mistake, like taking a left when you meant right. I continue
to amaze people at how long I can drive in a circle without noticing.

My father planted me an orchard of silver-dollar trees—they grew
my kindergarten height. I was harvesting these thin slices of light
when a herd, not a herd, but whatever a group of butterflies is called,

darkened around me—pulsating cloud, cocooning my body. When I
got the call my father was dying, I left the room full of kids I was
teaching, just left them like a ghost town. That is, the living seem

spectacle to me. I drove the 700 miles to my birth city and thought
I’ll just follow if he dies, just keep driving until I find the way we go
when the body stops. When monarchs found themselves lost on me,

I stood still as stone, not wanting to crush them—my arms slightly
levitated from my sides, moving with breath, until a thousand wings
began to slow with me. My father didn’t die, but is dying. I’ve gone

back to teaching, but teach differently. I tried to bring my son to
the monarch path so he might know being covered in migration,
but butterflies no longer recognize our planet, and move like chaos

towards some end. I googled the name for a family of butterflies—
a kaleidoscope—beauty reflecting itself into symmetry. When a plant
dies, they grow eyes that can see hearts moving wings—or wings

moving blood. Let’s say the line between left from right dissolves.
When my car was crushed from front and back by other cars, and I
was held at center, alive but trapped. I came out walking to and from

work, just as the butterflies were dying en masse in the streets of Los
Angeles. The gutters glistening with sheen—millions of monarchs
still. I collected their lost body in my purse and carried them home.

Nicelle Davis is the author of Circe (Lowbrow Press), Becoming Judas (Red Hen Press), In the Circus of You (Rose Metal Press), and The Walled Wife (Red Hen Press). Her poetry film collaborations with Cheryl Gross have been shown across the world. website

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