A fritillary; Shepherd’s, Heath or Pearl Bordered, Fastens its wings up for the night to hide Its varieties of orange and burnt gold And display a more cautious pattern, Veined segments of pale brown and green.
So, except for its black tongue, which unfurls And zips up again as its body trembles, It could be a piece of bark or drying leaf Hanging from the zodiac of cane work I’ve put up on the cabin’s whitewashed brick.
It’ll be safe from the skittering bat, Too much of a mouthful for the swallows to eat, Flickers of blue and white gathering On the power line stretching to the valley’s turn Under clouds with bouffant shape and sheen
Of the brittle perms of dowagers Until they thin to the wisps of extreme old age And a breeze touches my neck dryly Like a great uncle or great aunt unsure If I could be someone they might have met before.
Are the swallows preparing to depart? I crave that speck of mineral which imparts To them a vision of the earth’s magnetic field. Do they perceive lines of force like rays of light? For their young two years on the wing before they mate.
Tonight I’ll crane my neck to watch the galaxy Unfasten brilliance like a butterfly As the skies clear of both youth and age And shooting stars curve down in a southern arc Seemingly purposeful as a swallow flock.
Once more I’ll wonder if a random thought Can move as far and fast as a comet Brushing by the earth on its huge elliptic Round the sun, then back to cold space and on out, Longer than mankind, to the Clouds of Van Oort.
A NIGHT OF DEMONS
It takes the last of the day’s brightness with it, A red fritillary sideslipping A spider’s trapthread cantilevered between leaf and leaf towards
Dusk. So lacewing, waxwing, a dither of something Ramshackle, entirely feelers and long, loose legs, A waltz of bronze eyelashes from carpet to skirting board, The mosquito’s impression of a high speed dentist’s drill
All before moths begin to cover the glass of the cabin door. The largest is the colour of cut wood, The smallest a corner of a dirty bandage. In between flutter slivers of stone or leaves deprived of light.
Outside is the growl of a stream over rock, Energies that knot and tangle to the Black Sea. Later I may shine my torch on water and glimpse The tremor of a trout’s fin, the spasm of a crayfish tail.
Goatsucker, frog, a sidling in the grass; On the porch I brush away cobwebs from my face Not an architecture, but a stickiness of scraps of cloth. Then the unlikely angel; a bat, its toppling flight, Catching insects as if from the crests of fast-moving ghosts of waves.