Award Winners

Cecil Hemley Memorial Award - 2001

Angie Estes


What's between them cannot be
said, although it has been held
between black marks and quoted
the way walls hold
the place we call temple
long after the roof's
given way. Gone
is what we say, but how
to quote what once was
there: departure,
arrival, on time. And how
to punctuate them
in a sentence, two
at each end, upright
but bent slightly like the fingers
of Christ—hard to say
whether he is giving
a blessing or quoting
the words he just spoke:
Benedictio latina.
And also with you.
(And I quote.)
Finger puppets engaged
in liturgy, quotation marks
were separated like the two halves
of the soul Plato named, forever nodding
to each other from opposite ends
of a sentence--and also with you--the distance
between them the same

as between the cow in the field
and the egret following closely, always
behind, waiting
just off to the side: still, white,
and hungry. What's in between them?
Only everything that can be said,
which is to say "nothing
comes close." (And I quote.)
And also with you: to bless,
to speak well of, to say well—
"well"—or at the benediction,
well said. According to Quintilian,
an orator preparing to speak
would holdup his hand, first
and second fingers extended, thumb
resting lightly on the curved
fourth and fifth. Not waving,
exactly. Schedule, delay,
missed connection, despite the signals
from the catcher and coach
on third. Here's something
quotable: "the swallowtail sings
chrysanthemum, zinnia,
sweet alyssum, while the bees
hold the bass note mums,
mums, mums." The antennae inscribe
the hieroglyph for quotation: sky
with pelicans, flying
in formation.