Award Winners

Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award - 2005

Mary Jo Bang


Who knew that a police seal was blue,
That a morgue door could have metal deco trim
Around its rectangular invitation
To come in have a seat and complete this

Form. That was June. Now is the cusp
Of October where you teeter
On the brink of a date marking more
Sorrow in store. More days

With an off-white ice rink sky
Of winter waiting.
The clock with its digital blinking
Is also a pathetic asking for more.

Words keep slipping away, so many
Ice blocks in a scene of whiteness,
A mood of Sweden, bleeding
Trees breaking down

Because they are ice-covered.
Little idiosyncratic expressions can form
A sense of who one is. Who one was.
One can, hypothetically, be brought back

In the form of an actor

Who gives an after the fact replication
Of text conveyed in a character's voice.
I can no more understand the world as a stage
Of myself, mired as I am,

In this missing. The missing is married
To drizzle. Of course, tears
Are only one aspect
Of the scenery of sorrow. The language

Of ancestors, mourning the departure
Of any or many. This October, every day ends
With five o'clock dimness
Sealing the landscape into a tin.

The outside comes in
the window, or I go out the door.
Nothing matters
to the ash in the box.

It asks for more nothing
and instead gets a heel-click reminder
that one of us is still here.
At least until the next amazing cessation.

Meanwhile, I'm living in the moment.
A palm tree dressed in a pineapple skin
waves a frond in my dream.
Found evidence of a breeze. A hum

of bright Paxil-induced tinnitus meets me
at the border of waking to wish you were here.
Sound and sight. Sound and sight.
And the mind's drugged blunt.

Fanny Howe on Mary Jo Bang

These poems (elegies) are written under the sign of Necessity. They exist because they have to exist. This means they are still burning from the forge, carry pain that is radiant, and cut a guiding path for the reader. Because she is already, before the hour of necessity, a serious and accomplished poet, all that she knows comes to her aid and has the kindness to make these poems great.