“History”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 2 2013 8:15 AM

“History”

"So was it he who ... taught the mockingbird to keep not one but two blank patches beneath its wings?"

Photo by iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Angie Estes read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

Mallarmé said that Loie Fuller, with the wing
                                    of her skirt, created space
like the new convertible
                        brought home by the neighbors
            on our block: at first a question mark
in the sky, then rising above them
                                    half a parenthesis until only
a comma was left behind, the shape
                        of their hands as they waved
            down the street. “We ought to say a feeling
of and, a feeling of if, a feeling of
                                    but, and a feeling of by,” William James
claimed, “quite as readily as we say
                        a feeling of blue or a feeling
            of cold,” but Leonardo’s double-helix
staircase at Château Chambord wraps
                                    its arms around its own quiet
center, makes sure that the person going
                        up and the one coming down
            never meet. The empty spaces, Conrad
said of maps, are the most interesting
                                    places because they are
what will change. So was it he
                        who invented pinto horses, taught
            the mockingbird to keep not one
but two blank patches beneath
                                    its wings? We could hear
the car radio as they drove
                        away, Elvis insisting I’ll be yours
            through all the years, ‘til the end of
time
. From Latin cor,
                                    for heart, to remember
in Spanish, recordar, means to pass
                        once more through the heart
            the way the blood keeps coming
back for another tour, another
                                    spin around the block. The yellow-
orange sash flapping past the window
                        was memorable, a memorial, so much
            like an oriole or the scarf that keeps
circling the past’s held
                                    note: parked by the curb, the wisteria
was all ears, a hysteria of listening.

Angie Estes is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Tryst, one of two finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. 

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