David Butler, Solstice


December has cut the throat of another day.
The light bleeds away, westward,
dyeing the clouds in briefest reds.
For a week, a keen wind
has honed the moon to a blade.
There’s barely a sliver remaining;
a white edge that traces an arc
haunted by the memory of the old moon.
The fields are heavy as remorse.
Pools shiver at each splash of air;
cower from the senile wind;
crust around blackened grasses.
Nothing breeds here.

Nothing breeds.
And yet, amidst this baldness —
the urgent snout; the darting beak;
black leaves flicked, stabbed, rifled —
there’s something clandestine abroad:
a rumour. Solstice. A whispered word.
The tidal moon is pregnant with it,
and cradles in her arc the print of the full.
Hedges are raising wicker fingers
to sift the Zodiac’s turning braille
for myths of recurrence.
Even the frost seems cold only with waiting.

It’s we that grow old, not the world.
All about, nature wheels on axes of return.
Our charge is set for a single firing
before we fall to ashes.
Still we blaze up, red in the knowledge
that the maths that governs our span is strictly linear.
It carries within it the term of its own decay,
implacable as treason.

That treason is our glory.

Christmas Madrigal

A sky stratified to sandstone.
Sun a pale senescence, its
sedimentary light of such low wattage
it buffs a dull sheen off wet asphalt.
The dusk touched with russet —
raw air, chill and vespertine,
resonant now with bird-sound:
cacophonous, a magpies’ caucus
skips through a leafless copse,
trading cantankerous cackles;
a shrub has come alive with starlings,
multitudinous, while by the gate
a solitary blackbird chips at twilight
as it would chirp a late sonnet.


Raw morning, breath
nebulous. Bray Head
frosted to quartz. High up,
the tiny nib of a jet
inscribes the scoured ozone:
intimations of a homecoming.
It draws the mind back
to the prodigal returns,
the bustle of preparation:
the crib, the pine-scent,
a low sun caught in a hedgerow
white and senescent.
Somewhere, a church-bell.
Somewhere, an ass working
the stiff hinge of its larynx
back-forth, back-forth.

David Butler is the author of the poetry collections Via Crucis (Doghouse, 2011) and All the Barbaric Glass (2017), and of the poem cycle ‘Blackrock Sequence’, which was the winner of the World Illustration Awards 2018 (books, professional section). Solstice won the Baileborough Poetry Competition 2017; Winterscape was included in the 2018 anthology Reading the Future (Arlen House).

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