Angie Estes

LA LONGUE DURÉE
April 10, 2015 Estes Angie

LA LONGUE DURÉE

 

It’s a far cry from the blaze we light
in our time
, far from the rising
of the lights, from which eleven
persons died in London during the week
of August 15, 1665, the same period during which
three people died from grief. Nepenthe
was given to Helen of Troy to quell

her sorrows with forgetfulness. It’s Ancient Greek
and like all history, without grief, as in
let he who is without it
win a free trip to Nepenthe
restaurant—perched on the cliffs
above the Big Sur coastline, once the home
of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth—which offers

a quiet meal with a view.
At 5:45 on the evening of
August 27, 1783, the inhabitants of the village
of Gonesse, ten miles northeast of Paris,
saw what appeared to be the moon
descending from the sky. Some ran, some
knelt, while others pelted it with stones, chased it

down, tied it to the tail of a horse and dragged
that first hydrogen-filled balloon, launched
from the Champ de Mars,
back to Gonesse.
From the balcony, we watched
the moon rise above Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
because it was the brightest and nearest

moon of the year, a sequence
of sequins skimming
the sky like the lamb’s-tongue
edge of prayer that rises
to an ogee arch, fingertips
pressed together. But it’s too late
for Pluto, who’s now planet-struck

as I was when I was
seven: my mother pressed each tight
curl of hair flat with an X
of bobby pins so that all night, sputniks
orbited my head.
High above the sea
on the crest of Cap-Ferrat, Béatrice de Rothschild

built Villa Ephrussi, her fin-de-siècle
Creamsicle with its ex-voto gardens
in the shape of a ship, immune
to bouleversement. My mother
always asks each time
the moon appears, how long do you think
it will stay? When November’s cold

snaps, the ginkgos finally give up
their leaves, but the ground beneath them
is radiant.

Angie Estessixth collection of poems, Parole, is forthcoming from Oberlin College Press in October 2018. Her previous book, Enchantée, won the 2015 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize, and Tryst was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.