I Want to Talk About You

By Angie Estes

Featured Image: Arizona Night by George Elbert Burr 1920+

when starlings swell over Otmoor, east of Oxford, as the afternoon
light starts to fade. Fifty flocks of fifteen to twenty starlings, riffraff

who have spent the day foraging in fields and gardens suddenly rise
like a blanket tossed into the sky, a revelling that molts sorrows to roost

rows, roost rows to sorrows as they soar through aerial corridors and swerve
into the shape of a cowl that lengthens to a woolen scarf wrapping

and wrapping, nothing at the center but throat: thousands of single black notes
surge into a memory called melody, the lovers damned but driven on

by violent winds in the cold season when starlings’ wings bear them
|along in broad and crowded ranks, extended cadenzas to pieces that

never get played, brochure for the flared tip that begins with the tongue
and lips of the embouchure wrapping the saxophone’s slurred

howl, scrawled signature of the sky. Thousands fly but never collide
in their pre-roost ritual, Dante’s long list of God’s works excited

raked left and right over leafless branches of trees until they
drop like the bodies of suicides, draped on thorns of the wild

thickets their cast-off souls become, unable to rise the way a wave
nearing shore will crest, something on the tip of its tongue

thrown back before it breaks and splays, starlings laid down
like the wave’s rain of sand or words falling

out of a sentence: art slings, we called them, grass lint, snarl gist, gnarls
sit. Art slings them this way, last grins, art slings swell, rove

over, red rover, red rover, send artlings right over, artlings
rove, moor to swell, write Otmoor all over

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 published in NOR 7

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