Alexis Quinlan

“Flight Tests on Butterflies Disclose Free Spirits”*

The past is a Stone Age god
who backhands us into submission
and we lurk in low meadows to calculate
each bob, prance and dive: the ricochet reign

of butterflies. A red admiral claps broad
freckled wings before each lunge, applauds as if
to begin anew it must first commend what’s been
bravo! – as excellent, grand – brava!

before embarking on its sublime hitchhike
from one wildflower capital to another.
Unless the clap is more like a door slammed
to make the separation clean, loud – bravo?

Like the gust of anger when he left, placing
himself safely in the realm of that good
lord who has Richter-registered every
red admiral’s every blue option, measured

weight and wing span, rush of each passing breeze
and the torque of current wrought by each clap.
But even that god cannot predict the fluke
gymnastic that follows which is why I go on.

Alexis Quinlan has published in several literary magazines over many, many years, including Borderlands, Paris Review and Denver Quarterly. Last month she won a best poem prize from Spoon River Poetry Review. This month her chapbook, Landloper, will be coming out from Finishing Line Press.  The above poem will appear in that manuscript.

*Note: “Flight Tests on Butterflies Disclose Free Spirits” was a New York Times headline on December 12, 2002 for an article written by James Gorman.