ACE G. PILKINGTON


Van Gogh's Long Grass with Butterflies
 
On a day of London sidewalks,
Thames water, and a sky with no print
Of the feet of the laggard sun,
When the air was half rain
And the rain was nowhere at all,
I stepped from winter into a painter's season;
Van Gogh's three-piled yellows
Like summers that stretch beyond heat
And leave even the stars to shoot
Through an oven of air.
Then suddenly, "Long Grass with Butterflies,"
Not that or this, flesh or fish,
Coils up in an emerald oration,
A long spring play winning winter's debate
And leaving the summer unsung.
The butterflies are perpetual
Like white-flake stars that will not fall,
Though in their universe of vacant green
They are pointedly, perplexingly small.

William Stafford: The Poet's Task in a Power Failure
 
That near-winter day
He sliced silence for us
Until the fluorescents failed;
The dark caught us in a white paper box
With no windows,
Our hopes scratching back over distraction.
At an open door, he spoke (or wrote) on,
A thin spray of light wetting eyes and mouth
While his words wedged their way between shadows.



Richard II and Other Emperors
 
"The caterpillars of the commonwealth,"
Bolingbroke calls them
Before his bladed word takes their heads.
A real caterpillar, hung in a jar,
Makes a "j" of transmutation,
Spinning chrysalis threads like alchemical silver.
"Yoda," my mischievous friend named him,
Because he resembles that simple film's alien,
Or perhaps both are power hidden,
Possibilities breaking free.
If Yoda, swinging in his leaf-filled glass,
Slips safely past his sleep,
His butterfly colors illumining the cocoon,
And we open his world before
The blood-wet wings batter themselves away,
He will be a flurry of flame for the wind.
Bushy and Greene (also good names for caterpillars)
Broke their wings on Bolingbroke's back
Shut in the crystal of Richard's mirror.
From their dark dreams no colors came,
No butterfly's chance of a death rescinded,
No pheonix forming its own rebirth.