Award Winners

Cecil Hemley Memorial Award - 2012

Lily Brown


Wayne Miller


Out of a ripped situation, we learned
to boat. Tacked once the harbor
in a wood-ribbed float
then curved to port.

I remember twirling through air,
a baton in pain, then an arm
backed into its socket
by a doctor.

Luxuriating in a structural schedule,
I open my bones.
I could go about it
differently, but what good

is rattling in a basket?
And is it waiting if you
don't know after
is what you'd want?

Zachary Schomburg on Lily Brown

Because out of a ripped situation we learn to boat. Because a baton in pain. Because I could go about it, and everything else, so differently, but what good is rattling in a basket. And because when I read this poem's final question, I want to give up. I want to drop everything into someone else's grave and bury it and then climb a tree and sleep there in the tiny wind until the tree rots down into a soft muddy boat. It's a question that only looks a question, but really it is a door that knows how to open up without making a mess. It makes no real attempt at asking. And this is a poem that understands how to manipulate syntax in order to slow everything down into a false promise of making any sense, in order to confuse the heart into vibrating. And it's a poem that understands the sound of its language (that oat, oat, and ort, that backed and socket and doctor). It is honest and vulnerable. It is sad and painful. It is smart and tight and careful. And, besides, can anything be waiting? I mean, can anything be waiting?