Two Poems

By Susan E Butler

A talisman

I raise my shoulders, turn my face
to the warm spray, bend this way,
stretch that way, to work

the heat into my back, let
sweat, sun cream, slather of soap,
slide to a rainbow slick

at my feet. The light-silvered stream
sluices away the grit of stranger
danger, the seventy warning,

the indeterminate, permissible
length of a walk, lays bare
a memory, smooth against the skin

as an amber pebble,
luminous in the sun:
the first orange tip butterfly

of spring flitting among
the shepherd’s crook shoots
of new bracken,
the eagerness of dandelions.

Their usual table

A sheep steals the other half
of her usual sandwich, hot
aubergine pickle and cheese,
while she settles the seats
at their usual table, her half
clenched between her teeth
as she unfolds waterproof
situpons on the least angular
part of the rock. She studies
the faded red die splashes
on the bony plane of its nose.
Perhaps it will become
their usual sheep.

There is something cannibalistic
in the sheep’s appetite
for the ewe’s milk cheese,
as if they were castaways
adrift on this expanse,
of scratchy black heather skeletons,
obliged to turn to each other
for sustenance,
beneath the bludgeoning sun,
the sky almost as blue
as a superhero’s stretchsuit.
She wonders how one summons
Spiderman or Superman
from New York. The sheep shoves
an empty lunchbox off the rock
and ambles away.

Sue studied medicine in the time of women’s liberation, of having it all: a career in General Practice, a husband, three sons.  Her work reflects the gift and the burden of such an intimate connection with so many lives.

Sue Butler took up both writing and walking in retirement believing both to be unpredictable forms of meditation on life in all its grace, pain and peculiarity. 

These poems were written during the first heady, extraordinary days of lockdown when we walked miles on the moor in astonishing, unseasonal sun beneath curiously unclouded skys. These walks both unsettled and soothed me in this time of isolation (my husband is vulnerable). ‘Our usual table’ is taken from jottings in my notebook on one of these moor walks.  I felt helpless and yet nature rolled on regardless of any agency or power of mine, vouchsafing me small moments of great beauty such as the first orange tip butterfly I saw this particular spring. I carried them with me, felt them endowed with mystical powers as were the more concrete talismans carried by travellers in days long gone. 

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3 years ago

Very much enjoyed this. Thank you

Poetry and Covid-19 ARCHIVE (This website archives the over 1000 poems submitted by over 600 poets, and viewed by over 100,000 from over 125 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, June 2020-June 2021). Thank you to all who took part in the Poetry and Covid project.

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