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Requiem

Each October the house beyond
the woods appears, then goes away

in May. The maple opens
to let the blue jay in, then

closes, while all
the trees keep pointing

in the same direction.
Every house is

a missionary, claimed Frank Lloyd Wright,
but what is it they want

us to believe? Beside the house,
a road, and onto the road raccoon,

possum, ground hog, deer occasionally
stray: how the hind leg rises

at death, saluting
the sky, just as at the end

of Stravinsky’s Rite of
Spring
, a girl steps onto

the stage and dances herself
to death. The ground keeps opening

but will not speak. To attract
birds, you must make sounds

like a bird dying. Begin
with alarm—psssshhtt—then

move on to the high-pitched
noises small birds make

when seized by a predator: loudly
kiss the back of your hand

or thumb. The origin of music was
grief: a dirge sung annually

in memory of Linos, ai Linon, alas for
Linos
, from the Phoenician ai lanu,
alas

for us, a harvest
song, lament for the death

of the year. In October, as in Wagner,
you can have the gold

but only by renouncing
love, the past can sometimes be

forgotten, and heaven go up
in flames. Wagner always loved to be

where he died, in Venice,
because he could hear music

only in the city’s silence.   

—Angie Estes

Angie Estes is author of The Uses of Passion and Voice-Over, winner of the 2001 FIELD Poetry Prize.

Originally published in the October/November 2003 issue of Boston Review



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