By Heart

Because we’re running out of time
for you to talk and me to listen,
I want to get things straight –

to know which brood of Holly Blue
feeds on ivy, spring or summer,
and what distinguishes the Gatekeeper

from the Meadow Brown, at twenty feet.
To hear you talk of flight patterns
and favourite plants, how Wood Whites drift

like snowflakes in the sun,
and even where the Devil’s Bit persists,
the Marsh Fritillary’s now rare.

I want you to remind me what was special
about that Hairstreak with the W
scrawled in white across its underwing –

as if knowing cancelled absence
and a father could be hoarded
piecemeal with the facts –

and, just in case, I’m keeping count
of all the times we’ve watched
and waited and given names to things,

remembering what you say
about natural things growing subtler
the more they’re magnified,

while the opposite seems true for us;
and how we tried to stir up clouds of wings
by hurling branches at a summer oak

and only caught a glimpse of silver –
though we knew for sure a whole colony
was feeding there, high up on the honeydew