Friday, September 1, 2023



Churchill And The Black-Veined White Butterfly


"Butterfly loved by Churchill back in England after almost 100 years" The Guardian


The morning opens like the roses tilting themselves

towards the sun. Apple blossoms perfume the air.

Ash trees in a bordering woodland peer closer

at the gardens to peek at the old man,

hunched like a brown bear, curious

at the butterflies in their cages. Wings,

pale like the ice floes' cracked maps,

flutter wildly. The lepidopterist, cautious

as the weather, opens each cage

in the rose garden. The butterflies settle

like snow among flowers ornate

as Chartwell. Churchill lights a cigar

and remarks that King Charles the Second

would be proud. Seasons pass like conflicts.

The black-veined white butterfly doesn't stick

like a stamp to the estate grounds. Their fallen bodies,

knocked over like chess pieces, litter the soil.

Others are tangled like downed airmen

among the roses' thorny stems. Shadows

of wild birds prepare to blitzkrieg, their screeches

making every rose shut their eyes like children

before a blitz. The butterflies will return,

while our lives will become dry like kindling.

How flammable, how flammable we are.



Leopardus guigna


Though my face is no bigger

than your knuckle, don't call me

puddycat. My fur is spotted

like the rainforest's sorrow.

A bushy tail, fat like a firework,

helps me get vengeance

for its losses. I feed on lizards

splayed like starfish on tree trunks.

Their darting movements

remind me of the chainsaw’s

thrum, how quickly the blade cuts

without any thought to the tree

or the echoes sent throughout the rainforest.

When I feast on a black-throated huet-huet,

dark like a forest dipped in dawn,

cough up an austral thrush's honeysong,

or feel my tongue blush into the chucao

tapaculo's sunrise map, my eyes weep

for all that is lost. My kittens

will remember the rainforest's stories

echoed in the meat of every bird,

lizard, snake and rodent caught.

Our pheromones anoint the air

with the past, present, and future.

Every inch of ground we touch

carries stories as vulnerable as a broken

branch, as you.


Emerald Ash Borer

Agrilus planipennis


A pneumatic drill

no bigger than your index

finger. An emerald demon

forceful enough to evict

ash tree nymphs,

trim Yggdrasil to a bonsai,

and make Italian vampires

strut the catwalk

while the audience pales

like cappuccino froth.

An unsolvable riddle

waiting for the cipher

to be cracked.




The rainforest's hide and seek

champ, it sports joke shop

vampire fangs and eyes pooling

a perfect shade of night.

Look at this scrawny thing,

an escapee from a Bambi cut

on the cutting room floor:

a child's drawing of a fawn

the size of a baby, with twig legs

and a bulbous blimp of a body

birthed in autumn-wear.

Never underestimate this wannabe

Dracula — see how it submerses

itself like Arnie in Predator

in vernal pools and other bodies of water.

They'll make you Millais' Ophelia

in your dreams, while the trees weep,

and the cattle of stars lower themselves

to offer their condolences over the field

of your body turning wildflower, pastoral.




Your first radiotherapy session

felt fine, apart from a Kalahari

heat drying your skin like a drought

with no understanding of mercy,

making you shed hospital blankets

and anoint yourself with moisturiser

until it passed.


You reflected the arid savannah,

miraged a watering hole with a village

of elephants and zebra shedding

their radiator shadows. Perhaps

it was nothing, but you remembered

several animals in the room:


Watchtowers of meerkats, a lanky

secretary bird, and an African wild dog.

A gemsbok dressed in autumn. A porcupine

carrying an unkempt forest on its back.

Several cheetahs vying for attention.


Unexpected of all, a giant eagle owl

perched at the foot of the machine.

Silent and ghostly, serene as a prayer.




CHRISTIAN WARD is a UK-based writer who has recently appeared in Rappahannock Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Impspired, Mad Swirl, Dodging the Rain, Wild Greens, Dipity Literary Magazine, Indian Periodical, and Streetcake Magazine.



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