The Emails Go Unanswered

by Lois P. Jones
PenShells
First Place, October 2018
Judged by Jeanette Beebe


your silence is not quiet
it stomps its hooves
after the rains
have muddied up
the river and I look down
from the wooden bridge
into molasses thick
with distance
with spots of amber
where you can still see
the bright stones below

your silence is an elk
in the forest
in the line of my arrow
the quiver as the antlers blend
with the branches
and I can almost trace
its full form
but it is always twilight
and soon the sun leaves us
blinded
and then open
to the other world

your silence is the moon rising
in a kingdom of stars
it holds an orbit
around a planet
long gone from my sight


The weakest part of this poem is its title, which is almost always good news for a poet — kudos. What's striking about this poem is its confidence in figuring this extended metaphor: silence as an elk in the forest. The speaker positions the elk from multiple vantage points, which is surprising. Certain phrases are closer to cliché (molasses, twilight, moon rising), but even in these moments, the language moves along: "molasses thick / with distance", for example. The ending feels quite strong, especially after multiple readings. --Jeanette Beebe

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