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:
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. . .