Cardiff International Poetry Competition
Runner Up - Ben Holden
Ben Holden is a library assistant in the St Pauls and Easton areas of Bristol and a support worker / note taker at Bath Spa University. He has an MA in Criticism and Theory from Exeter University and an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London. Ben’s poems have appeared in Poetry London and he has been commended in the Bridport Poetry Prize.
T h e L e p i d o p t e r i s t
It was in a time of war that the lepidopterist
went into his back garden & demarcated
a tetrahedron of air, invisible
yet flush with his garden shed roof.
He sat on a fold-out chair outside the kitchen window
& used his digital camera to note the butterflies
that flitted into & out of the shape.
It was summer; two months later
he’d filled three notebooks.
He wished he’d seen a green hairstreak
(there’d been chalkhill blues, orange tips & purple emperors)
but sometimes the tetrahedron would rotate in the breeze,
fill with sunlight or shadow in a way, which,
though pleasing to the eye,
would distract from the winged imbroglios.
Such as this one: a silver-washed fritillary landing on another.
He raised his camera & snapped them
just before they left the enclosure.
The insects went their ways
both sides of a copper beech.
Clouds warned him. A faint needling
had him look immediately at the image
& then up into the air where he imagined he saw them for ever
He folded his chair & went inside
knowing the two butterflies
would be nearing the local Toby Inn.
As he went to sleep that night they were flashing out to sea.
But at least, he mused, six weeks later –
as he made the corrections insisted upon
by some squirt at his alma mater –
they’d now be above the Azores;
a territory that cedes only warmth.
One frozen winter evening
as he fled through scissors of grass,
he sensed the fritillaries were kissing
above a rock-filled desert,
the human froth of a missile strike glinting beneath them
& that no matter what distant scene
their wings were faintly embarked upon,
they were One & alive
while the hairs that crowded his temples had died
& rice paddies & Donald Trump-owned skyscrapers
& dead maggots, ingot-like, on the lips of Chilean dog food tins
would be detail enough for their chitinous wings
– two lovers, absconders, joined at the tips –
in flight through the air, at one
with the particulate.