Wednesday Dec 12

EstesAngie Angie Estes is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Tryst (Oberlin College Press, 2009), one of two finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. Her fifth book, Enchantée, is forthcoming from Oberlin in 2013. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and the Alice Fay di Castagnola Prize from the Poetry Society of America. Visit her web site here.

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Revision


When the pasta is badly broken, we eat
maltagliati, and once we think
the risotto is done, we must still
make it creamy, mantecare. Because it was
never finished, Proust kept writing
in the margins of his drafts, and when
they were full, pasted small pieces of paper,
paperoles unfurling from the page as if

it had wings, could be released on parole
with a promise of words. The past, he claimed,
is hidden in some material object of which
we have no inkling, just as scientists maintain
that because a memory is altered each time
it’s recalled, the original memory is the one

we can’t know. In Michelangelo’s crosshatching

and chiseling, the two-dimensional slowly
becomes three by the same math used
in the sentence The royal We lives
in Synecdoche, New York. But since when
is a sentence ever innocent? Phoebes
still wag from the wires like words we meant

to say, and Michelangelo’s Prisoners
remain locked in stone because
we can’t remember that they were
ever free. But if we have to misremember
in order to recall, what must we do
to forget? At the end of June, cabbage leaves begin
curving in toward one another. Soon they will
bury their head in their many hands.
 

 

Colors Are Not True
 

although all the labels say deep colors
bleed, the way cottonwoods sometimes turn
bright red when they are struck
by lightning. According to
the legend on the excavation map
beneath the church of St. Cecilia
in Rome, there are things
that are visible, things
not visible but about whose position
we are certain, and things thought
to have existed—like Mendelssohn’s Song
Without Words, which we can hear
but not sing. Before the invention
of the five-line staff, neumes
flew above the text like crows, black
marks indicating the general shape but not
the exact notes to be sung, the way
the grocery list I found in London, jotted
on the back of a map, read:

Waitrose
1 kg oranges
I Yeo Valley butter
½ doz. eggs
1 loaf brown bread
1 jar raspberry jam
2 real rosy red apples & 4 pretend

Even when clouds gray the sky
on a winter day in Paris, there is
as Henry James said, a presence
in what is missing: nuance
keeps leading me back
to nue until all the if’s of Eiffel
tower me.
 

 

Errand
 

My father and I have gone out because we are out
                                    of milk and on every street corner you hear
silver bells playing on the Pontiac’s radio wherever
                        two or three are gathered in my name, which I’m writing
            with my finger in the fog that has condensed
on the inside of the windshield while we wait
                                    for the light to turn green. And the empty
metal baskets do ring as we enter
                        the bright store, High’s Dairy, where row
            after row of cold glass bottles line up their
shoulders like swimmers or wrestlers
                                    in the team photo. Back in the car, first my breath
was visible, then not, like the visions
                        of saints or the hills up ahead as the fog lifts
            then thickens while I drive on Route 95, half
a century later. A statue of St. Anthony of Padua,
                                    patron saint of all things lost,
stands in Santa Maria in Trastevere. He holds
                        the Christ child in his arms, scraps of paper
            with messages and notes covering his feet, tucked
in each crease of his robe and stuck on the spikes
                                    of the child’s halo as if it were a satellite
                        waiting to be launched into space.

 

Wont to Do

 

As it turns morning into light, you can hear
the earth creak on its axis, release the red cheek
cheek cheek of a cardinal.              

                        ____________________

 
A symphony, Matisse’s     Luxe, Calme     et Volupté:
clicks     on a keyboard, the ticking     of a clock, while     the naked bathers
go on like     melody beneath the sun’s     cymbal, all that remains
of the fireworks rocket     stuck in the sand as if     it were a tree, its tip
splayed     like the barrel     of a shotgun too tightly     choked.
The center of     the painting     is silent: a small boat
with its sail     X     beached     on the red bank
of pleasure—its hyphenated     shore—the way     the memory of
pleasure     moors in the brain—violet,     yellow, orange, green bricks
mortared     with the white     of day. In the distance, the hills
hump like the heads     of crocodiles, slide     into the sea.

                        ___________________

 
When she turned 87, my aunt spoke in sentences, long
and chiseled like the paths worn by the hooves
of cows on the hillside, switchbacks
winding up towards a peak as in Cézanne’s
nonfinito paintings, where you can see

                        ____________________
 

what isn’t there. When night blooms,
it’s serious: the poplar spills
soprano and warns the grackles
of my heart.

                        ____________________
 

In medieval rhetoric, the path or way through
a text is called ductus, as in duct
and aqueduct: John of Patmos
must finally eat
the book.
 
                        ____________________
 

Fill like April with chartreuse, swell
against the sky’s gunmetal blue.

                        ____________________

 
It’s where we dwell, Dante says:
cut off from hope, we go on
in desire, always close
to won’t.