I, Up they soar


Up they soar, the planet's butterflies,
pigments from the warm body of the earth,
cinnabar, ochre, phosphor yellow, gold
a swarm of basic elements aloft.

Is this flickering of wings only a shoal
of light particles, a quirk of perception?
Is it the dreamed summer hour of my childhood
shattered as by lightning lost in time?

No, this is the angel of light, who can paint
himself as dark mnemosyne Apollo,
as copper, hawkmoth, swallowtail.

I see them with my blurred understanding
as feathers in the coverlet of haze
in Brajcino Valley's noon-hot air.

From Butterfly Valley: A Requiem by Inger Christensen. Copyright © 1989 by Inger Christensen at Broendums Forlag; © 2004 by Susanna Nied. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.