Andrew Zawacki

Winner of the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award in 2002

Viatica 1

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.

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