Angie Estes

Hail to Thee,
October 13, 2013 Estes Angie

Hail to Thee,


I write, my wrist nodding

as it does when chopping leeks

and garlic with a knife, then stirring

the soup, whose project—with farro,

ceci, and nettles—is to present life

            as it has been forgotten. Sit a while

and wrest the awe from these rites; an era

waits, wistful on the wire, while

the priest holds up the host

as if it were the sun

or moon, says this is

           my body, then blesses

and breaks it. When the sky

is on a lark, we look before

           and after, lest we be struck

by unpremeditated art: Outside,

the wet irises wait, waist-high

in Shelley’s pale purple even

while my father, in summer after

supper, lifts each burning briquette

with his tongs and holds it

deep in water until the black

stops hissing and bubbles cease

to rise. He places them on a sheet

of newsprint to dry, lined up

the way the bodies of the dead

wait for the Resurrection. Bird,

although thou never wert, arise: please

rate your purchase, just as St. Augustine

distinguished the eternal from

the human: our sentences

have a beginning

and an end—except for the one

he proposed for his own

epitaph, once used by an ancient

Roman whose tomb stood

next to the road: When you read these words,

                        I speak, and your voice

           is mine.

Angie Estes is the author of six books of poems, most recently Parole (Oberlin College Press, 2018). Her previous book, Enchantée (Oberlin, 2013), won the 2015 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize and the 2014 Audre Lorde Poetry Prize, and Tryst (Oberlin, 2009) was selected as one of two finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. Her second book, Voice-Over, won the 2001 FIELD Poetry Prize and was also awarded the 2001 Alice Fay di Castagnola Prize from the Poetry Society of America. Her first book, The Uses of Passion, was the winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize. The recipient of many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize and the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, she has also received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.