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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 21, 2017.
About this Poem 

“A few years ago, I lived in Villefranche-sur-Mer while taking an intensive course in French. From my apartment high on a cliff overlooking the bay, I could see cruise ships regularly anchor and ferry their passengers to shore, while from our classroom window we watched the French firefighter planes, which appeared to dive into the sea and rise up again into the sky.”
—Angie Estes

Beautiful Thinking

                           Each morning, before the sun rises
over the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer
                           on the Côte d’Azur, cruise ships drop anchor

so that motor launches from shore
                           can nurse alongside. All afternoon we studied
les structures où nous sommes l’objet, structures

                           in which we are the object—le soleil
me dérange, le Côte d’Azur nous manque—
                          while the pompiers angled their Bombardiers

down to the sea, skimming its surface
                           like pelicans and rising, filled
with water to drop on inland, inaccessible

                          wildfires. Once, a swimmer was found face down
in a tree like the unfledged robin I saw
                          flung to the ground, rowing

its pink shoulders as if in the middle
                          of the butterfly stroke, rising a moment
above water. Oiseau is the shortest word

                          in French to use all five vowels: “the soul
and tie of every word,” which Dante named
                          auieo. All through December, a ladybug circles

high around the kitchen walls looking for
                         spring, the way we search for a word that will                                         hold
all vows and avowals: eunoia, Greek

                         for “beautiful thinking,” because the world’s
a magic slate, sleight of hand—now
                         you see it, now you don’t—not exactly

a slight, although in Elizabethan English, “nothing”
                         was pronounced “noting.” In the Bodleian                                               Library
at Oxford, letters of the alphabet hang

                         from the ceiling like the teats
of the wolf that suckled Romulus
                         and Remus, but their alibi

keeps changing, slate gray like the sea’s
                        massage: You were more in me than I was
in me. . . . You remained within while I

                        went outside. Hard to say
whether it was Augustine
                        speaking to God or my mother

talking to me. Gulls ink the sky
                       with view, while waves throw themselves
on the mercy of the shore.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Angie Estes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Angie Estes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Angie Estes

Angie Estes

Angie Estes is the author of Enchantée (Oberlin College Press, 2013).

by this poet

poem
My mother said that Uncle Fred had a purple
heart, the right side of his body
blown off in Italy in World War II,
and I saw reddish blue figs
dropping from the hole
in his chest, the violet litter
of the jacaranda, heard the sentence
buckle, unbuckle like a belt
before opening the way
a feed sack opens all
at
poem
No one says it 
anymore, my darling, 
not to the green leaves 
in March, not to the stars 
backing up each night, certainly 
not in the nest
of rapture, who 
in the beginning was 
an owl, rustling 
just after silence, whose 
very presence drew 
a mob of birds--flickers, 
finches, chickadees, five
poem
How many in a field
of wheat, and to whom
do they belong? O death, O
grave, Bright star, thou bleeding piece 
of earth, thou shouldst be
living at this hour, world without
synonym, amen. But I
digress, turn away like Giotto’s
contrapposto Christ, apostle
of contrecoeur—nothing like the