Sunday 22 May 2016

A Benny Andersen poem about preservation

The poetics of preservation

As a boy I kept caterpillars
was very fond of them
preserved one during the occupation
picked from the hedge a caterpillar
a fine fat multicoloured privet hawkmoth caterpillar
with a black crooked horn behind
put it in a jam jar
with a supply of privet leaves
with a lid of perforated greaseproof paper
but instead of munching away
it became motionless
the fine colours
the wriggling fatness
became wrapped up and hidden
in a lifeless colourless pupa.

I placed the glass
at the back of the larder
autumn passed
winter passed
it was forgotten
there were other things to think about
Hitler and Rommel
with Eisenhower and Montgomery
spring drew nearer
one spring day mother called out
A mouse a mouse there’s
a mouse in the larder
you must get rid of it right away

A flapping sound from the bottom of the cupboard
a wing-span larger than the jam jar
a beauty that demanded the whole universe
full of paternal pride I let out
my young privet hawkmoth into the light
just wait
soon you will get to see both the dark
and all the stars you have deserved

old and bereft of parents
I often resort to the same method
preserve fat wingless poems
in dark drawers for months
miss my mother
deputise for her
listen expectantly terror-stricken
to the foreboding flapping from the dark of oblivion
that announces liberation is near
that the poem is now on the wing

Thanks for the m(o)use

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