Passage as Pantoum

by RC James
Babilu
Second Place, October 2016
Judged by Richard Krawiec


I don’t pretend to know answers,
only questions occupy me now.
Holy gestures are not an abiding end;
I’m trying to fathom the distances.

Only questions occupy me. Now,
forever kneels in silence.
I’m trying to fathom the distances
as you sing on the other side.

Forever kneels. In silence,
my grieving in itself contains lessons.
As you sing on the other side,
those who hear you might gasp and take pause.

My grieving in itself contains lessons.
Holy gestures are not an abiding end.
Those who hear you might gasp and take pause.
I don’t pretend to know answers.


I generally don't like pantoums, to be honest. They often seem too aware of their technique. So it was nice to read one where the repetition focused on the point of the poem, its exploration of death and grief, coming around, as it seems to me, to the personal response being more important than the ritual gestures. Again, I liked the tightness of the lines, the sense there weren't any unnecessary words. --Richard Krawiec

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