Award Winners

Cecil Hemley Memorial Award - 2002

Andrew Zawacki


                      O one, o none, o no one, o you:
                     Where did the way lead when it lead nowhere?
                                                                        —Paul Celan

: alone and in advance
  over an unknown grave:

  the moon, the moonlight, side of the moon
  that leans against a dark the dark leans on:

  would last and it would last, and the sound
  it makes would not be lasting sound

  but only the noise a sun gives off
  en route to something other than itself:

  and the night would last, one side
  of night, dissolving a language

  that leans on the dark, on trees and men
  who walk like trees, before before

  as winter would last: winterstricken
  a wayward moon, and gravity at long

  at last, and how it would aggravate, how
  dissolve, and how a tree resembling a detour

  would overstay its unwelcome: noise before
  the dark before, and men who walk

  with eyes ajar, one side of their eyes
  advancing alone, trees as doctrinaire

  as dark, and men whose language
  only the moon stands under:

  who take this splintered otherwise
  for a life that will not last

Wayne Koestenbaum on Andrew Zawacki

I am haunted by this poem's deft combination of transparency and obscurity: the language is pellucid and ever forward-moving, with no terminal punctuation, and yet its repetitions and abstractions leave an impression of mystery, of sadness, and unspeakability. The poem balances, as well, up-to-date and piquant diction ("gigolo fog") with the sort of spiritual drone we value in the music of Henryk G—recki. "Viatica" is a work of subtlety and beauty; ultimately, the poem earns its imposing epigraph from Paul Celan.