Shishir 2022 Stories - John Brantingham


Season of Monarchs
By John Brantingham


Stephanie goes out back with her morning coffee to find her milkweed bush covered with September monarchs preparing for their long flight back to Mexico. Then she’s inside her earliest memory of her father, back from World War II, seeing each other for the first time. It was the season of monarchs then too, and they had a milkweed bush covered then like now in butterflies.

Her father had snapped off a branch and handed it to her. He told her it was a magic wand, that this is how you made magic wands, with the joy of butterflies, and he had her go around the house and garden making wishes. He asked her if she wanted an ice cream sundae, and she said that she did, and he said that she should use her wand, and she did, and still in his uniform, he made her one.

Later, he would deal with anger and alcohol and nightmares and the whole litany of things that people who have lived war experience, but what she remembers is that at the center of the man was a person who just loved his child. Today, she snaps off a wand, the butterflies rising in a cloud around her, and she backs off onto the porch. She would wish for something, but she realizes that what she wants is this, this moment alone with her father all these decades later.


John Brantingham from U.S. is a Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines, Writers Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016 and 2022. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). He is the founder and general editor of The Journal of Radical Wonder. .


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