Most of us can simply say
that it’s a butterfly,
and that it’s small and blue

but you see a border,
a certain arrangement of dots,
the faintest shift towards silver

or turquoise … and, even on the wing,
can tell the Chalk-Hill
from the Holly or the Common Blue.

You’d like to find Adonis
but we’ve missed his brief season
by a week or two and you decide

there are fewer Marbled Whites,
fewer Peacocks, Painted Ladies
since last time you were here

(though to me the whole hillside
seems alive with wings), fewer
harebells and trefoil.

We’re walking on earthworks
on a day so clear that from up here
we can look across four counties

and out across the hills which men
whose bones lie buried in this chalk
once scanned for fires,

who saw forests where we see fields,
but the same convergence of sea and sky
in that ambiguous band of blue.

But you’re focusing on butterflies,
not the view, and I’m content to follow
and look for what you want to find,

surprised how easily I catch
a tiny Hairstreak and hold it
for a moment in my hand.

(from Birth of the Owl Butterflies, Picador, 1997)