Tate Etc

Poem of the month: Butterfly Antennae

Butterfly Antennae
after Alexander Calder’s Antennae with Red and Blue Dots

Tonight there is too much interference to think.
In a town’s scattered Rubik’s cube of televisions
one face is switched to static.

In a wood of slow electrical pylons
sparks of butterflies
make it difficult to think.

There is the brain’s confetti, as if shaken
into the air by a petal-headed child.

I heard of a man who was lighting a film set
when a hawkmoth mistook his ear for an escape
and writhed against the eardrum’s straitjacket.

Then it was always raining, even on the train,
where a fly caught against the window
travelled the length of the country like a rumour.

We travelled weeks in search of the wind’s bellows,
a slack-cheeked god,

our progress overseen
by the moon’s persistent surgeon’s face.

Locked in my palm
the butterfly loses itself amongst my fingers,
and the hand knows only chalkdust.

This is how the word ‘butterfly’ was first absorbed –
with the rubbing of palms, and prayer.

Tonight all thought is interfering.
I never shook that intruder loose, a rhythmless drummer.

The rain of untuned radios
is swarming

above the buildings, over the river
which is a shifting mirror made of craneflies
with so much to observe
it has shattered its attentions.

Antennae with Red and Blue Dots is currently on display at Tate Modern on Level 3