Cecil Hemley Memorial Award - 2004
POSTCARDS FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TABLE
A pond no larger than your concept
of heaven. The shadowy-orange shapes
A tree so small and sculpted
it's someone's child. And stones.
Always stones near the water. And light,
with all its blinding accusations.
There are too many answers.
None of them completely right.
If there were one I could catch
in my mouth, it would be winter,
the whole garden transcribed in white.
Only the braille of our bodies
Susan Stewart on Fritz Ward
"Postcards from the Other Side of the Table" is an intriguing brief ekphrastic poem that quietly raises questions about the connections between seeing and feeling, looking and touching, image and word. The title evokes the tradition of table painting and the idea that a painting might have a "back" and "front," an image on one side and message or signature on the other, just as a postcard does, but as poems almost never do. A Japanese garden's play with conceptual and actual size, and with the relations between materials and their imaginary referents and symbols, are also brought forward: stones are near the water that wears them away; light is the vehicle of blindness; describing turns into erasure; an object becomes legible as a subject. Like all strong meditative poems, this work invites the reader to keep thinking and turning, turning and thinking, reading and re-reading yet again.