Thursday Poem

First Lesson in Alchemy

Rabbit, swan, deer, butterfly . . .
Out of nowhere, and with empty hands,
my father brought the shadow world to life.

Usually it happened late at night:
he’d light a candle, fix it on the stand,
then rabbits, swans, deer, that butterfly

and creatures I had never heard described
changed one into the other. Understand?
My father brought the shadow world to life.

Spelled out like this, it doesn’t seem quite right,
quite true, this miracle of the midlands
where rabbits, swans, deer or even butterflies

were seldom to be seen in broad daylight
in the few square miles that confined our lives back then.
My father brought a shadow world to life?

And yet that’s what he did. Before our eyes
his simple gesture made the known expand.
Rabbits, swans, deer, butterflies . . .
Now my father gives the shadow world new life.

by Pat Boran
from New and Selected Poems
Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2007