The Song Cave, 2022. Softcover, 108pp., 6 x 8 inches
With mounting intensity extended across three sections of poems, Ben Estes' achingly personal second collection unfolds to reveal an uncertain past, present, and future that is by turns mysterious and beautiful. ABC Moonlight contains poems that are filled with reflective awareness and subconsciously constructed dreams; a sweeping landscape of queer Midwestern loss and desire; and pairs of "folded poems" that question love, hope, and vulnerability in our current times. Rather than prescribing answers, Estes offers the reader intimacy and open-handed, big-hearted consolation—"Now to let something go / of myself, / without any need / to replace it."
Ben Estes' new poems, here gathered together into numbered, cadenced and syncopated movements, trace themselves onto the reader’s consciousness like a sort of extended, scorched earth sigh: ''Humans will / lose their purpose,' it says. Phew.' Flood and fire focused, like the times they are written inside of, the poems' language drives straight towards, and eventually lands in, the telegraphic delivery of dreams, where loss and love are confused and finally remembered to be the same thing. The unexpectedness of fantasy mixed with the inevitability of memory is narrated by Estes from both before and after. —Matt Connors