Here Lightning Has Been

By Angie Estes

Featured Image: Bathers by Paul Cézanne

buried across the barren plateaus
of Provence, where stone altars
chiseled with FVLGVR CONDITVM
mark the point where lightning entered
the ground. Around each site, a wall
remains to keep the divine
fire of Jupiter’s signature within
the shafts and passageways
of the earth. According to Plutarch,
whoever is touched
by lightning is invested with divine
powers, and anyone slain by
its bolt is equal to the gods, their bodies
not subject to decay because
they have been embalmed
by celestial fire. Light,
when it leaves
the air, is the color of blood
that has entered a vein:
There is a fountain filled
with blood, drawn from Emanuel’s
, and its ink is blue
in the pump and stays blue
on the page. In his diary,
Nijinsky wrote that he had
invented a fountain pen
called God: Handwriting
is a beautiful thing,
and therefore it must be
preserved. Long after
the Gallo-Roman rites
of thunderbolt burial, in L’Après-
midi d’un Faune, Nijinsky mounts
the stone altar and lies down
on a scarf now full of afternoon
light as it seeps through the covered
passageways of Paris, their blue-green
glow like the sudden light
from under a skirt when the skirt
is lifted from a leg:
I know that if I show
my handwriting to someone who can
read the future, he will say
that this man is extraordinary,
for his handwriting
In 1939, after shock
treatments, Nijinsky was visited
by photographers who asked to see
his famous leap. In one picture
Nijinsky appears—in dark
jacket, trousers, and shoes—highlighted 
against a white wall, a foot
and a half above the floor, arms
outstretched and blurred like a hummingbird 
hovering at a flower or a man before
a firing squad at close range,
each sip a jeté
of light.

Angie Estes is the author of six books of poems, most recently Parole (Oberlin College Press). Her previous book, Enchantée, won the 2015 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize, and Tryst was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.

Originally appeared in NOR 4

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