Journalism In Verse


The New Extinction Math

in Environment by

How much is a butterfly worth
In the new zero-sum math

In which each species
Must prove it is worth saving

So what’s the price tag, say,
On saving the Monarchs

Let’s calculate the cost/benefit ratio
Of a Monarch vs. an undrilled oil well

Better still let’s estimate the pain/payoff
That the new math will require us to use:

The Monarch doesn’t generate revenue
They can’t be taxed nor do they create jobs

They don’t use any oil or gas
In their 3,000-mile migration south

They extract no-cost nectar from milkweed
Along their path in the American Midwest

They pay no rent on the Oyamel fir trees
Where they winter on Michoacan mountaintops

The Mexicans say they carry the souls of the departed
For free when they arrive on the Day of the Dead

They charge no fee for us to watch them and listen
To the susurrus of millions of stained-glass wings

I have done the math and the weight
Of a single Monarch wing equals the weight of a soul

So in the old math of intangible beauty and grace
Losing the Monarchs is a price we can’t afford to pay


A former journalist, Carol Flake Chapman returned to poetry, her first love, after her husband’s sudden death on a wild river in Guatemala shattered her life. Poetry, she found, was the language she needed to respond to a world gone haywire.

Photo by Wes Hicks.


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