The Search for Lost Lives

By James Tate b. 1943 James Tate
I was chasing this blue butterfly down
the road when a car came by and clipped me.   
It was nothing serious, but it angered me and
I turned around and cursed the driver who didn't
even slow down to see if I was hurt. Then I
returned my attention to the butterfly which   
was nowhere to be seen. One of the Doubleday   
girls came running up the street with her toy
poodle toward me. I stopped her and asked,
"Have you seen a blue butterfly around here?"
"It's down near that birch tree near Grandpa's,"
she said. "Thanks," I said, and walked briskly
toward the tree. It was fluttering from flower
to flower in Mr. Doubleday's extensive garden,   
a celestial blueness to soothe the weary heart.   
I didn't know what I was doing there. I certain-
ly didn't want to capture it. It was like
something I had known in another life, even if
it was only in a dream, I wanted to confirm it.   
I was a blind beggar on the streets of Cordoba
when I first saw it, and now, again it was here.

"The Search for Lost Lives" from Return to the City of White Donkeys by James Tate. Copyright © 2004 by James Tate. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Return to the City of White Donkeys (Ecco Press, 2004)

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Poet James Tate b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, Religion, Other Religions, Living, Trees & Flowers, Animals, The Spiritual

 James  Tate

Biography

James Tate’s poems have been described as tragic, comic, absurdist, nihilistic, hopeful, haunting, lonely, and surreal. His many poetry collections include The Ghost Soldiers (2008); Worshipful Company of Fletchers (1994), which won the National Book Award; Selected Poems (1991), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award; Distance from Loved Ones (1990); Constant Defender (1983); Viper Jazz (1976); and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Religion, Other Religions, Living, Trees & Flowers, Animals, The Spiritual

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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