Award Winners

Cecil Hemley Memorial Award - 2009

Melissa Kwasny


Clairvoyance (Moon)
Moon has names for all her girls: Angel, Darling, Novia. Trees are pollen merchants when green, the holy color, is at its apex. There are baby rabbits in the night gardens, eating the world down. There are scooters to ride after dinner. There are presents to be wrapped in the thinnest, potable, yellow threads of light. Always, there are books to cry over. Someone stays up until dawn, when he smokes his cigarettes on the threshold. Someone walks to the edge of her village, as appearance goes to work on the dark. What we will remember of earth: the rain-washed centers. So that we must have at one time seen them as panes of glass. If there are three things that proceed from our seeing— beauty, love, and sadness—perhaps it is sadness that casts its shadow between the other two. There are the heart people, the ones we know as children. There are the familiars, who are here to counter despair. There are companions we recognize as a danger to us, and they might be us. It's curtains for you, we say, closing them.

Clairvoyance (Your Word)

Your word is echo, mine is unfold. My lover has picked the word pool. We have let a cool room, walking distance to the shore. We have each left a known paradise for an unknown. You unfold slowly my gift from its box. Cut-velvet, the color of merlot. But time unfolds is not unfolded unless one says by whom. Some butterflies flail so wildly they rip from their shroud. Some pelicans land so clumsily they break their wings. We miss so many things. We sit at the pebbled beach, picking through the precious stones— what is it that will change my guests and me? What word, what jade, what carnelian? The pelicans sail like parachutes with brakes on over the waves, the slowest gliding we have ever seen. The ocean, with its huge shoulders, moves its furniture across the floor. Our mouths are not wide enough to make that sound. Though our bodies, being twin, can absorb it. We unfold our small words, one by one, against the rock walls. Only pool echoes.

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge on Melissa Kwasnylyr

I trust the tenderness of this poet. "Nine Senses" gives me a capacious range of thought and perception in graceful language that mingles the experienced world with particular wondering. Grace in rhythm and attitude provides a flexible structure for what has the appearance of humane musing, but is constructive and observed with care. Grace belies the complexity and discipline of the poem's investigation. Here is an interweave of emotional delicacy, lyric monologue, precise rendering and sincere thought. Here is beauty in description and image, such as, "You stand in the lavender dark of first light, the mute striking like moths against your knees". Then the camera pulls away to the philosophical dimension "—trees, distance, premonition." The tree coming into appearance at dawn compares to the coming day, a premonition that is still not determined, because of distance. Here is pure poetic pleasure of the pastoral, or is it dream? "There are baby rabbits in the night gardens, eating the world down." Seeing is apprehension, experience, and the poet's delicate lights and darks lead us to assimilate the value (shade) of sadness between beauty and love.