Lieu d’hiver mémoire

By Angie Estes

Featured art: The Sky Simulated by White Flamingoes (study for book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom) by Abbott Handerson Thayer

You can find them each year
                for a brief while only
in winter—a drop of red and yellow
                              sealing wax dashed at the end of
                 their stems to prevent the loss
of moisture—because the squat,    
             copper-russeted pears of the ancient
variety Passe Crassane will not ripen
                                 on the tree no matter how long
                you let them hang, as if they had taken
St. Catherine of Siena’s advice
                 to Make yourself a cell in your
own mind from which you need never
                               come out, the way the goldfish
            on late autumn evenings
circle all night, flicking
                their tails in the fireplace.

What kind of pear is
                              sweetest? Bartlett, Seckel,
                 Comice? Oboe d’amore—mezzo-
soprano of the oboes—is Armagnac
                brown, its mouth, a pear-shaped
opening. Autumn is so oboe,
                              but then winter is near, so close
                to hinter, to did you ever, no
never, to once I might have
                tried. En hiver it might
as well be hier, but who are
                               the dead of winter, are they
                the same as the dead of night?
In the Lumière brothers’ black
                  and white film, le trottoir roulant
carries Parisians on its rolling sidewalk
                               across the bridge to the Exposition
                 of 1900. We watch them move
toward us, though like Hamlet, they never
                take a step: “If it be now, ’tis not
to come; if it be not to come, it will
                             be now; if it be not now, yet
it will come.” Our 1955
turquoise and white Pontiac smiles
               in the snow while my mother finishes
dressing for church. Stationed
                                 in his suit and tie, my father rests
                his hands on the steering wheel
as the car idles and warms,
               while in the back seat, my brother
and I wait for my mother
                             to appear, our breath rising
                like smoke signals.


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 Issue 19.

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