Caterpillars – Caroline Price

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1993 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicators: Andrew Motion, Anthony Thwaite

It is the season. They are on the move
again, an emerald army shrugging glutted bodies

from the fields of old rape opposite. For days
they cross the road, undulating, like slow water;

penetrate any needle’s eye in your neat hedge.
And close in on the climb of stippled white-

While you, inside, are gradually possessed,
seeing wherever you turn the groping prolegs,

pale bellies pressed to glass. One unguarded crack
and in they come-you find one stretched

along a chair, or silhouetted on a lamp,
and start in fear, drawing your collar close-

no matter that they only want the eaves,
or undersides of sills. They bind you tightly

with the threads that hold their search
in place, the filaments webbing the windows

with a pretence of lace- mocking the house
as forgotten, lost. And you try to break

the spell, running outside to scrub
and scrub-like the seventh wife at the blood:

for as soon as each trace is cleared, others
appear, inching stubbornly up. And your passion

hardly lasts: you cannot work for watching
the writhing gravel, grass-reluctant
even now to tread on a single body; knowing
that you will be the first to clap hands

at the beauty, that warm day in spring-
after the emergence, the garden full of white wings.

Copyright © Caroline Price 1993




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