Monthly Archives: September 2013

There Are Times

One of the many things poetry can do is to capture a fleeting moment.  It could be an instant reaction to something seen, or heard; a sudden perception, a passing thought. . .  Whatever it is, if it had a significant impact, you tend to mull it over, to meditate upon it, and this process can sometimes result in a poem.  A good recent example of this type of poem is “A Butterfly in the British Museum” by Kelly Grovier.  He has since written that this poem “. . . stems from an actual sighting – the fleetingest of glimpses amid the crush of visitors entering the museum of what I could swear was a small blue butterfly clinging to the sleeve of a little girl”.  He goes on to mention that he was: “Vaguely aware of classical notions attaching to butterflies as symbols of the soul”.

My poem “There Are Times” is an attempt to capture the thoughts and feelings I experienced one evening – just a few weeks ago – at the end of the most wonderful summer we’ve had for a long time.  The fact that butterflies figure significantly in the poem is partly coincidental – I happened to see a few as I glanced out of the window, and there have been many more white butterflies around than normal, this summer – but I admit that Kelly Grovier’s poem was probably also floating around in my unconscious mind.


There are times like this, you see; there are times. . .

You look out, at a summer evening’s blue sky;
reflect on a rhapsodic day gone by.
A frisky fluttering of white butterflies
adorns green hedgerows, embroiders the skies.

A butterfly’s life –  evanescent, so brief –
but is there a need for sorrow, for grief?
This is existence; its flux and its flow.
Take it, as it is; as it comes and it goes.

What if it were now – all of it – to cease?
What if time, itself, were suddenly to freeze?
Temporal duration?  The will to survive?
All you know, now, is you are here, alive.

J.S. Bach, right now, caressing your ears;
directing attention to music of the spheres.
J.S. Bach, riffing on the same vibe:
the eternal, compressed into musical line.
The eternal, caught, somehow, in this light;
seen, in a fluttering butterfly’s flight.

This is your life; this is what it has meant.
All you’ve imagined, all you have dreamt.
All you’ve experienced, all you have lost.
The values you’ve learned, the suffering, the cost.

And you think: this is it?  Whatever!  Oh, well.
You don’t believe in a Heaven or Hell.
As massy-leaved trees wave gently, in the breeze,
You would settle for this; for moments like these.

There are times like this, you see; there are times.
Times like this, oh yes; there are times. . .


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I’ve often written, in this blog, about my influences and my favourite poets.  In poetry, as in all art forms, it’s very rare to come across a work that is sui generis – completely unlike anything else – and many poems are obviously inspired, directly or indirectly, by other, previously written, poems.

I first got the idea for “Property” when I read the poem “17” by Emma Danes.  “17” was written after the poet moved, with her family, from London to Cambridgeshire.  She wrote, later, about the genesis of the poem: “It was an old property which demanded constant work, and yet despite all our care and attention, it never quite seemed to belong to us.  Years later it remains a strong, rather haunting presence in my mind.”  Reading “17”, I started pondering on the fact that I had never written anything about previous places where I’ve lived.  Suddenly, memories started rushing back about the first flat I ever owned, in London, and the rather dramatic burglary that happened there.  It was a large property in South London, converted into several flats, and I was lucky in that I had nothing stolen in the burglary; but the event obviously had an impact upon me, and I’ve finally – many years later – got around to writing about it.


My first flat.  My very own!
London, early eighties; the start of the boom.
Until then, all I’d had was a room.

I did love it – a little.
But it was entry to The Great Property Game.
Life-changing.  Things would never be the same.

One evening, back from work.
a blonde sat on the stairs,
black-smudged eyes glistening.
Behind her, the door hung open,
askew, on its hinges.
Brutal dentistry had been done
on the gaping mouths of the flats.
All the doors, on all the floors.
“My jewelry.  Can’t replace it.
Bastards!” She wailed.

Hindered by my heavy heart,
I trudged up to the top floor,
where my own door greeted me
with a yawning, sickly grin.
But they’d sought only precious baubles,
Of which I had none.
Nothing to take.  Nothing was gone.

I was shocked – a little.
But: insurance, a new door.
Incidental damage, nothing more.

Two years later, I sold it, for profits
undreamt of, and moved on.
Like a burglar myself; ruthless.
Moving in, moving out,
taking my purloined profit with me.
Moving on, to that next rung;
for I was young, then.

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