Angie Estes

December 14, 2015 Estes Angie



I’ll call you nowhere, now

here: the cardinal’s almost almost

almost, quite. Until the winter solstice

there is less light

than night. Then a whole other

manna, in a manner of

speaking. But darkness is so much

faster than light. Have you

noticed that if you go into a room

that is completely dark and flip

the switch, you see the light

enter the room but don’t

see the darkness leave? At dawn

we watch the light appear

while night slips out

unseen like the tide before

it leapfrogs in. Chablis

not only rhymes with sea

but comes from, remembers

the sea: its chalky, stony

salinity. The best come from

grapes grown on a prehistoric

sea, limestone and clay soils

full of fossilized shells

and marine skeletons. In the Middle Ages

and Renaissance, the depiction of

the rotting body became

an art form. Sculptors carved

cadaver tombs, double-decker like

the buses in London or the bunk beds

I once argued over with

my brother: on top, the reclining

effigy of a person as he appeared

in life—clothed and sometimes praying

or reading—and on the bottom

a naked corpse laced

with worms. Ligier Richier, a pupil

of Michelangelo, sculpted the transi

the transition from body

to dust—of René de Chalon, still standing

in the church of Saint-Étienne: unraveled

muscles and flaps of skin

dangle from bones as he grasps

his rib cage with the right hand, his left reaching

up to hold a space that once held

his dried heart. One of Dickinson’s correspondents

likened her handwriting to the fossil tracks

of birds. Where they were headed

cannot be said, so I’ll call you

what I was going to say

was, what I meant, I always

thought that like Aeneas, clinging

to the wreckage after the Trojan fleet

has gone down: Someday, even this

will be recalled with pleasure.


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.