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cover of Popeye in Belgrade


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.

Fritillary at my chata


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.

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