David Butler – Five Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Swallows
Shaving Mirror
Glassblower
Depredation
Exodus

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Swallows

Scythe-wings slide from the low vaults, calling,
Fall through the line of sight, swing wide,
And, tight to the lawn, race their shadows.
Gracing an arc, a long drawn, mower’s sweep,
The lithe blades wheel and leap at once upwards, deep
Deep in the blue air.

Chatter thrown wide over unploughed winds
They gather high, then scatter in heady reels
To sow their sky-notes, peels, thin chips of sound,
Till they halt, crest, fall again low to ground
And reap the long hours that have grown there
Over the fields.

The seasons turn, the dusk-silted eaves fall dumb,
Shunned by their feints of leaving, flights in shadow.
They weave and scatter at nightfall, gather their numbers
And scything and sweeping the hollows, they harvest in
The last sheaves of light. And then they are gone,
And with them the summer.

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Shaving Mirror

The illusion, in its concave retina, is
virtual, magnified and upright,
which shows the treachery of words.
Rather say the image exaggerates
with the precision of satire.
It is a theatre of parallax;
a moving circle, centred on the eye;
a mercurial portrait, to which
time, a third-rate artist
who can’t leave well-enough alone,
returns, morning after morning,
to rework line and hatching
with ever coarser charcoals,
until the figure is botched, once for all,
to caricature.

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Glassblower

It is as though an incandescent swarm
has clustered, on a spindle of his breath,
to fabricate a hive
in the hot globe of amber.
The air is given hands,
cupping the molten bubble thrown out
by his steady lung, crafting
the dull red sun until it sets,
like a premonition of Winter,
into the fragile geometry of glass.

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Depredation

The drunken wind which last night
stomped through the playground,
drove the park into a frenzy
of soughing boughs, buffeted
the houses, sputtered
down the throats of chimneys,
chased cascades of startled
leaves against the windows, has,
this morning, taken a breather.
The ground is littered with all
the detritus of late autumn,
as if a carnival has decamped;
and the trees, stripped bare
as parents when grief tears through them,
are suddenly old.

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Exodus

What bundle has morning washed up
on the shores of the internet,
a tiny Gulliver, though silent as still-birth?
A Moses among the bull-rushes?
Pharaoh has sent his towering guard
like the giant of Gallipoli, to raise him.
Surely, among all the suitcases, empty as grief,
that bob on the Aegean, one can be found
to cradle him, float him onwards…

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David Butler – Photograph Doire Press