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Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Spell


Tawny owl (Strix aluco): photo by K.-M. Hansche, 2006

The day of the dead when
the veil between us and them
is thinnest eyelash
kitty breath umbrella flutter
psychic butterfly --

A whole procession of them coming
pushing through the net -- the sugar candy
shedding of the skin and how
it lets the wind blow through the veins
the dance of the skulls and when
the spinning of the little mechanic
inside the toy clock stops
the dark man carrying two suitcases
steps from the now no longer moving train --

That’s the day when
I know someone will be
no longer waiting,
the unborn child said.
I invented what I wanted to say
in case anybody out there,
on a cold grey day in autumn,
wanted to hear the thoughts
of the dead --
I opened the door and
in flew a moth, thinking
twilight came early

File:Red Admiral .JPG

Red General (Nymphalidae): photo by MJI photos, 2008


Zephirine said...

Lovely poem, and a very good owl photo. They look so delicate, thogh of course they aren't.

I saw a tawny owl once in a London square in the snow... I was walking home late, and it was sitting there quietly on a quite low branch, presumably driven out of its usual hunting grounds by lack of food. We looked at each other and seemed to agree that the world was being unnecessarily cold and white. The owl didn't move. I walked on.

TC/BTP said...


Thank you.

And as to that transfixing stare, it seems they have it from early on:

Strix aluco, pocket size

Zephirine said...

Aaaah, so sweet.... unless you're a mouse, of course.

Pollyanna said...

I hope that's not a butterfly stolen (coaxed?) from my empress hat!!?

Evocative poem - very good. Liked Thinnest eyelash" and the rest of that verse of miniscule things.

TC said...

Thank you Poll.

And rest assured your empress hat is safe; the Red General is a moth and not a butterfly.

TC/BTP said...

For the person who has requested enlightenment, here is

Polly's empress hat

Zephirine said...

Not wishing to be lepidopterously pedantic, but I think your photo shows what we call a Red Admiral in the UK, which is definitely a butterfly, the deliciously named Vanessa Atalanta.
(I spent happy hours keeping caterpillars of these as a very small child, can't remember if any of them became butterflies though. I suspect they were discreetly taken away when my attention was elsewhere).

The Imperial Moth presumably outranks both the General and Admiral in Nymphalidae circles, but I wonder what the protocol is when it meets a Monarch butterfly?

TC/BTP said...

Ah Zeph,

I had feared it might not be possible to put that one past you. I was merely trying to reassure our friend Polly no one would be prying the Red Admirals off her hat. A little white lie as a means to a good end--do forgive.

As it's Wimbledon season near you, would you take a Monarch and an Imperial in doubles against a General and an Admiral? At least there would perhaps be a bit less of the grunting than we have presently.

BTW my favorite bit of lepidopteradexterity in poetry comes in Pound's Canto 92, when the poet murmurs a brief litany of the names of fragile winged things lost and bewildered in the great storm... much as EP felt himself to be at the time. (He was in a federal hospital for the criminally insane.)

"But in the great love, bewildered/farfalla in tempesta/under rain in the dark:/many wings fragile/Nymphalidae, basilarch, and lycaena,/Ausonides, euchloe and erynnis..."

Anyway thanks for putting in a word for Vanessa the Admiral of the Air Navy. Andy Murray was still twenty-three years shy of being born when she was already a Euro celebrity.

Vanessa Atalanta on GDR stamp 1964