Daniel Varoujan Award, selected by Fanny Howe
Winning Poet: Diana Woodcock, “Fire Raging, Questions Blazing”
Fire Raging, Questions Blazing
Live the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far into the future, you will gradually,
without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
– Rainer Maria Rilke
A fire raging in my hair,
I live the questions now as best
I can, though I admit I do at times
attempt to answer them.
But mostly I trust Rilke was right.
When Harvest Moon beams on wild
asters in bloom, and light and dark
present themselves in equal balance,
when I taste summer in apple and chestnut,
perceive maple leaves becoming all fire
and the full moon cooling every lingering,
nagging desire – filling me
with compassion, when I refuse
to turn away, living the questions today
though bits of shrapnel lodge
in my skin, and I’m torn between
pop culture and politics,
saints and heretics, when I whirl
in my white robe in the company
of gulls and ghosts along the deserted
Inland Sea’s coast, when I finally believe
with my whole heart this is all I need –
little dot of a desert with its rapt light
delineating a thousand shades of tan,
brown, white – when camels,
earth spirits and wildflowers become
my mentors, fire raging, questions blazing,
no end to the suffering, the dunes
continually shifting, hamadas and gravel
plains cracking, white-cheeked bulbuls
flashing yellow vents like glints of gold
as they flush out insects and moths
from the lofts of desert scrub.
Fire raging, living the question:
What in God’s name
could it possibly be for –
this latest insane war?
My neighbors just back from
their country, Iraq – telling
the horrors, eyes full of sorrow.
And I, from Cambodia –
landmines still claiming limbs,
mosquitoes lives. Fire raging
in my hair, I would live spare –
spin Khmer silk in a room
small and bare. Living
the questions – this world,
the next – each question mark
a glimmer of hope, pinprick
dispelling the dark, each one
a likely key to unlock the deepest,
most guarded answer.
Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and two collections of poetry, most recently Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale. Her third collection, Tread Softly, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press. She teaches creative writing, environmental literature and composition in Qatar at Virginia Commonwealth University’s branch campus.