By Angie Estes

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 cardinals
to a tree—the way a word
excites its meanings. Who
cooks for you,
it calls, Who looks
for you?
Sheaf of feathers, chief
of bone, the owl stands
upon the branch, but does he
understand it, think my revel,
my banquet, my tumult,
The Irish have a word
for what can't be
replaced: mavourneen, my
second cousin once
removed of memory, what is not
as truth was
defined by the Greeks.
It's the names
on the stones in the cemetery
that ring out like rungs

on a ladder or the past
tense of bells: Nathaniel Joy,
Elizabeth Joy, Amos
Joy and Wilder Joy,
and it all comes down
to the conclusion
of the cardinal: pretty, pretty, pretty
—but pretty what?
In her strip search
of scripture, St. Teresa
was seized, my darling, rapt
amid the chatter
and flutter of well-coiffed\
words, the owl
in the shagbark hickory,
and all the attending dangers
like physicians
of the heard.