New & Selected Poems: 1955 to 2010 by Robert Dana



About Yes, Everything:
The apparently gentle ingenuousness of Robert Dana's deft and durable poems is deceptive; it conceals a sturdy, hard-earned sensitivity, an open-eyed and open-hearted readiness to confront whatever comes for it, to keep whatever in pain or joy proves worthy of keeping. -- C.K. Williams

About What I Think I Know:
There is a lifetime of love and loneliness in these poems; and bitterness, and knowledge. Even a little happiness. Always loveliness and good music. And amazing craft. And a night hawk's soul. -- Gerald Stern

About Starting Out for the Difficult World:
A Dana poem seems not crafted but improvised. Yet it is about as "effortless" as a jazz solo that brings to bear years of experience. You hold your breath as the poem takes place. -- Edward Brunner

Dana's poems are about the hard truths he has come by but telling them slant, as another highly quirky poet put it. Slant and almost word for word. I don't know another poet who weighs his words more than Dana does. He works with a careless and fearless mind, a fierceness and delicacy of feeling, a great subtlety of craft and an intense localness of vision. -- Ted Solotaroff

If these new poems are more relaxed formally, they are still in the vein of meditations on death and love and nature and beauty. I think of Keats, Stevens, and Roethke, also poets whose formal restlessness and trust in the imagination never managed to obscure their unmistakable voices. Good company. -- Jeff Gundy


I'm Lucky

And the birds have lost their talent
for the air.



My neighbor across the street
and down, died this morning.
Of colon cancer. Ending
four months of watching
birds in his back yard,
and eating ice cream, his pain
dumbed by a morphine drip
so carefully calibrated
only a machinist, which
he was, could fully
appreciate it. And his wife.
Such a fine and terrible
day to close out a life.
The first morning, really,
you could see your breath;
sunlight slicking every
still-green leaf. The air
windless, brisk, and edgy.

Then, the white van. Not
a hearse. A plain white
van in the drive. No
lettering at all. Just
two men. One in an uncle's
tired brown suit; his bulky
companion in shirtsleeves
following; both walking
as if in bedroom slippers;
wheeling their gurney up
the lawn to the rear of the house
through the sparkling dew,
past the red geraniums
and drifts of pink impatiens --
It's early. No children
maunder yet toward their
orange bus. And young
couples, behind the closed
doors of their duplexes,
ready themselves for a day's
work. Not a car passes.
In such suburbs, no
aproned women approach
death's door bearing
covered dishes. Later,
I'll remember how he gave
away his last precision
tools. And still later,
bedroom shades will be
raised, windows opened,
and air enter the house,
and light, and silence.

Back yards
blank with snow. Drifted.

The breath of trees
stripped bare.

My neighbor's blue Maverick
deafens, blind and hub-deep,

on exactly the same spot
he parked it last September.

This wind could cut glass,
freeze your finger to your cheek.

My life is not important.

I understand that.

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