The Backward Butterfly

30th October 1998 at 00:00
The covering letter says this poem was "written yesterday" in class, and it's easy to see it hasn't settled yet. Some of the lineation and some of the phrasing will look awkward to Sarah soon, but there's a pleasure in the energy of an early draft, and the piece is strong enough overall to carry its blemishes. They're like the splatterings of yellow paint, successful because artless, natural - what great observation that detail is, incidentally. It's this sort of up-closeness and thinking through - "the tiny cracked egg", for instance - that shows the poet's imagination is fully engaged, not content to muddle through with what is, after all, a really good idea for a poem. It's brilliantly managed. Backwards think to easy not it's.

Ann Sansom

The Backward Butterfly

The rainbow wings descend, backwards,
Down from a world of freedom and ambition
Into a tight space, where
It stays for many days.

Eventually it crawls back out
A simple black caterpillar
Splattered with yellow paint
Big and fat it crawls, backwards, over some half-destroyed leaves.

With a few magic words they are repaired.
But as the leaves are returned to how they once were
The caterpillar wastes away
getting thinner and thinner.

Until it retreats, inside a tiny, cracked egg
it closes up around itself and, eventually,
all that is left is a small white ball, lying in the moonlight,
on a big green leaf.

Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts, aged 12, receives 'The Poetry Book' edited by Fiona Waters (Orion). Submitted by Mrs M Shaw of Stowmarket Middle School, Suffolk, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teacher's notes. Please send poems to 'The TES', Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Ann Sansom is writing tutor at Doncaster Women's Centre and is a part-time lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. Her collections include 'Romance' (Bloodaxe)

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