The Morning of the Red Admirals by Robert Dana

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Like the red admiral, which uses all of the known wing strokes of flying insects, Robert Dana employs an astonishing range of poetic strategies to describe the pleasure and pain of this fraught moment in our history. And just as the brightly colored butterfly animates these pages, now lighting on a domestic scene, now flitting through a meditation on the nature of poetry, so Dana steps lightly "down some moonless fractal, wild refraction, unpredictable reflection." His clarity of vision and economy of means enact an exuberant encounter with the world; his vivid reading of his walk in the sun -- "Alive on the breath-edge of metaphor" -- is at once bracing and wise. Robert Dana is a magnificent poet. -- Christopher Merrill

In this, his tenth collection of poems, Robert Dana surprises, delights, and may even momentarily confound his readers with this ambitious book which is, above all, a work of transformations. "Heaven is here, not there" -- Dana says, and these poems invite us to "Dance... down this senseless, bright dingle of commingling and delicious confusions" so that we, too, can say, with the poet, "Every day I live I live forever." -- Richard Holinger


The Morning of the Red Admirals

for D & L

We saw them first
     last evening -- two,
spiralling up
     a column of late
sunlight, then,
     tilting away
from each other
     in a floating stagger
through the early
     summer leaves --
a jittery dipping,
     dropping, rising --
one coming
     to rest a moment
on the still warm
     roof of our fat
pagoda lantern,
     the other on weathered
deck rail;
     the tips of its
long antennae
     beaded and bright;
wings black,
     white dot
and blue dot,
     and barred aslant
with orange red,
     laid flat,
then clicking shut
     to dull grey sail,
then opening again.

Now, it's morning;
     you've gone to work.
The air gleams,
     dry and clear,
almost Greek,
     and a half dozen
admirals sip
     from the lilac blossoms,
still signalling
     their unsayable
story. One
     lights on my shoulder
as I hang the day's
     laundry on the line,
shirts and drawers,
     dull socks,
our flapping colors
     answering his.
He's weightless,
     this migrant --
a small, wild
     scrap of grace --
and I'm his resting
     post on the way
to whatever far
     edge of creation
breathes at the tips
     of his wings.

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