Angie Estes

She Said She Saw Vowels
April 23, 2020 Estes Angie

She said she saw vowels


underneath her birdfeeder
and that she wasn’t sure
whether they were blind or just
had no eyes at all, but how
did they see where they were
going? Northern European
depictions of Christ being mocked
on his way to the cross show him
seated and blindfolded, but in
the small painting on wood panel
found hanging above the hotplate
of a ninety-four year old woman
selling off the contents of her home
in northern France, Christ stands
at the center beneath a gold leaf
sky, his eyes unmasked
in the Byzantine style. It sold at auction
for twenty-four million euros after tests
under infrared light revealed it was
painted by Cimabue in the thirteenth
century, the missing volet gauche
or left wing of a polyptych
altarpiece: tunnels made by worms in
its wood matched up with holes
in the other panels, indicating that they
were all once part of the same plank
of poplar. Isn’t science amazing?
But even with a microscope
or telescope, has anyone ever
figured out why love is
blind or, for that matter, how
to see vowels? A 2016 study found that voles
are capable of empathy: they comfort
each other when mistreated, spend
more time grooming an injured
vole, and develop levels of stress hormones
similar to those of voles that have been
harmed. Yet physicists tell us that dark matter
isn’t matter, might not even
exist. It casts no shadow—like the a
in after, so there’s no use
searching for its presence, only
its consequence, as with love when it’s
over or the body deep in a grave,
which scientists now say continues
to move for over a year,
but where does it think
it’s going?

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.